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Copyright, 1922 


Dwight Edwards Marvin 

Made in the United States of America 


Made in the United States of America 

We count him wise who knows the mind and the in- 
sides of men, which is done by knowing what is habitual 
to them. 

Bishop Lancelot Andrews, A.D. 1355-1626 

Digitized by tine Internet Arcinive 

in 2007 witii funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 




Authorities Consulted xi 

Introduction 3 


A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the 
Bush A^ ^ 35 

A Burnt Child Dreads the Fire ... 47 -7 

A Chip of the Old Block. Like Father Like 
Son. Like Mother Like Daughter . .56 

A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed . . 67 

.l is not Gold that Glitters . . . 80 


A Man is Known by the Company TIe Keeps 90 ^ 

A Man may Bring His Horse to Water, but He 

Cannot Make Him Drink .... 94 

A Miss is as Good as a Mile .... 97 

A New Broom Sweeps Clean .... 99 

An Ounce of Mother Wit is Worth a Pound of 

Learning 102 

A Rolling Stone Gathers no Moss. . .106 


vi Contents 


As Wise as a Man of Gotham . . .113 

A Tale Never Loses in the Telling . .121 

A Whistling Woman and a Crowing Hen are 

• Neither Liked by God nor Men . . 125 

Birds of a Feather Flock Together . . 129 

By Hook or by Crook . . . . . 136 

Consistency Thou Art a Jewel . . .141 

Do NOT Count your, Chickens before they are 
Hatched 146 

Every Man Thinks His own Geese Swans . 153 

Great Cry put Little Wool . . . .160 

Half a Loaf is Better than no Bread . .164 

Honesty is the Best Policy . . . .167 

It is an III Wind that Blows Nobody any 
Good 177 

It is too Late to Shut the Stable Door when 
the Horse is Stolen ..... 181 

Kill not the Goose that Lays the Golden 
Egg 188 

Look before you Leap 190 

Look not a Given Horse in the Mouth . 194 

Misery Loves Company . . . . .199 

Name not a Rope in His House that 
Hanged Himself 203 


Contents yii 


Never Ride a Free Horse to Death . . 208 

Never Buy A Pig IN A Poke-' \>^ . . .210 

One Swallow does not Make a Summer . 214 

Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire . . 222 

Peacock Look at your Legs .... 230 

Physician Heal Thyself ... . . 234 

Set a Beggar on Horseback and He will Gallop 241 

Still Waters Run Deep 250 

Stretch your Legs According to your I 

Coverlet 256 

The Pot Calls the Kettle Black . . . 260 

There's Many a Slip Twixt the Cup and 

THE Lip . 266 

The Weakest go to the Wall . . . 270 

They that Live in Glass Houses should not 

Throw Stones 275 

To Carry CoxVls to Newcastle . . .281 

To Rob Peter to Pay Paul >V. ?-A. . . 287 

What Can't be Cured must be Endured . 290 

-— ^ When in Rome do as the Romans do . 294 

^ \When the Cat is away the Mice will (or may) 

Play 300 

Who Keeps Company with a Wolf Learns to 

Howl 303 

viii Contents 


You A Lady and I a Lady, who Will Put 
THE Sow Out? 311 

You Cannot Make a Su.k Purse out of a 
Sow's Ear 314 

Authors Quoted 323 

Index of Bible References .... 329 


Abbott, G. F. Macedonian Folk-Lore. Cambridge, 
^ Apocrypha, Old Testament. 

>Baily, Nathan. Diverse Proverbs. London, 1721, Re- 
print 1917. 

Bayan, G. Armenian Proverbs. Venice, 1897. 

Benas, B. L. On the Proverbs of European Nations. Liter- 
ary and Philosophical Society of Liverpool, 1878. 

Benham, W. Gurney. a Book of Quotations, Proverbs, 
Phrases and Names, London, 1907. 

Bernard, Henry; Slaveikoff; Pencho; and Dillon, E. 
J. The Shades of the Balkans. London, 1904. 

BiGELOW, John. The Wit and Wisdom of the Haytians. 
New York, 1877. 

Bland, Robert. Proverbs Chiefly Taken from the AdagUa 
of Erasmus. London, 1814. 

BoHN, Henry G, A Polyglot of Foreign Proverbs. Lon- 
don, 1884, 

BtJRCKHARDT, JOHN Lewis. Arabic Proverbs. London, 

Burke, Ulick Ralph. Sancho Panza Proverbs. London, 

Burke, Ulick Ralph. Spanish Salt. London, 1877. 
Burton, Richard F. Wit and Wisdom from West Africa. 

London, 1865, 
Carr, M. W. a Collection of Telugu and Sanskrit Proverbs. 

Madras and London, 1868. 
Chambers, R. Book of Days. 2 volumes, London, 1869. 
Cheviot, Andrew. Proverbs, Proverbial Expressions 

arid Popular Rhymes of Scotland. London, 1896. 

X Authorities Consulted 

Christian, John. Behar Proverbs. London, 189 1. 
NPhristy, Robert. Proverbs and Maxims and Phrases 
of all Ages. 2 volumes, New York and London, 1907. 

Cohen, A. Ancient Jewish Proverbs. New York, 191 1. 

Cohen, Henry. Talmudic Sayings. New York, 19 10. 

Collins, John. A Dictionary of Spanish Proverbs. Lon- 
don, 1823. 

Cowan, Frank. A Dictionary of Proverbs and Prc<verbial 
Phrases Relating to the Sea. Queensburgh, 1894. 

Davis, E. J. Osmanli Proverbs and Quaint Sayings. Origin- 
ally collected l?y Ahmed Midhat Effendi. London, 

Davis, John Francis. Chinese Moral Maxims. Macao 
and London, 1823. 

Davis, W. A. Japanese Songs and Proverbs. Kyoto, 1913. 

Disraeli, Isaac. Curiosities' in Liteiature. 4 volumes. 
Art. The Philosophy of Proverbs. London and New 
York, 1838. 

Dykes, Oswald. Moral Reflections upon Select English 
Proverbs. London, 1708. 

Ellis, George W. Negro Culture in West Africa. New 
York, 1914. 

Fallon, S. W. Dictionary of Hindustani Proverbs. Ben- 
ares and London, 1886. 
^*SEielding, Thomas. Select Proverbs of All Nations. 

Fuller, Thomas. Gnomologia, Adages and Proverbs. 
London, 1732. 

GoRFiNKLE, Joseph I. The Sayings of the Jewish Fathers. 
New York, 19 13. 

Grose, Francis. A Proverbial Glossary. London, 1787. 

GuRDON, Eveline Camilla. Country Folk-Lore: Suffolk. 
London, 1893. 

Gurdon, p. R. T. Some Assamese Proverbs. Shillong, 

Halliwell, James Orchard. The Merry Tales of the 
Wise Men of Gotham. London, 1840. 

Authorities Consulted xi 

Haw Kiow Choaan. London, 176 1. 
[azlitt, W. Carew. English Proverbs and Proverbial 

Phrases. London, 1906. 
Hearn, Lafcadio. Combo Zhebes. New York, 1885. 
Henderson, Alfred, Latin Proverbs. London, 1869. 
Henderson, Andrew. Scottish Proverbs. London, 1876. 
Heywood, John. A Dialogue of the Effectual Proverbs in 

the English Tongue Concerning Marriage. London, 

1562. Reprint. 
Heywood, John. Proverbs, Epigrams and Miscellanies. 

London, 1562. Reprint. 
Hislop, Alexander. The Proverbs of Scotland. Edin- 
burgh, n. d. 
^,Ji\jLME, F. Edward. Proverb Lore. London, 1906. 
'^ Inwards, Richard, Weather Lore. London, 1898. 

Kelly, James. A Complete Collection of Scottish Proverbs. 

London, 1707. 
^^elly, Walter K. Proverbs of All Nations. London, 

Knowles, J, HiNTON. A Dictionary of Kashmiri Proverbs 

and Sayings. Bombay, 1885. 
Lean, Vincent Stuckey. Collectanea. 5 volumes. Lon- 
don, 1904. 
Long, James. Eastern Proverbs and Emblems. London 

and New York, 1881. 
Long, James, On Russian Proverbs. Transactions of the 

Royal Society of Literature. Reprint, 1876. 
MacCulloch, Edgar. Guernsey Folk-Lore. London, 

Mackintosh, Donald. Collection of Gaelic Proverbs and 

Familiar Phrases. Edinburgh, 18 19, 
Maclean, Arthur John. Grammar of the Dialect of 

Vernacular Syriac, Proverbs, etc. Cambridge, 1895. 
Manwaring, Alfred. Marathi Proverbs. Oxford, 1899. 
Masayoshi, Oto. Japanese Proverbs. 1893. 
Maxwell, William Sterling. Miscellaneous Essays and 

Addresses. London, 1891. 

xii Authorities Consulted 

Mendis, Mudaliyar Nicholas. Sinhalese and European 

Proverbs. Colombo, 1890. 
Moore, A. W. The Folk-Lore of the Isle of Man. London, 

Morton, W. A. A Collection of Bengali and Sanskrit 

Proverbs. Calcutta, 1832. 
MuGGE, Maximilian, A. Serbian Folk Songs, etc. London, 

MuiRGHEASA, Enrina. Seanfocla Uladh. 
Negris, Alexander. A Dictionary of Modern Greek 

Proverbs. Edinburgh, 1831. 
Njcolson, Alexander. A Collection of Gaelic Proverbs 

and Familiar Phrases. Edinburgh and London, 1881. 
Palmer, Samuel. Moral Essays on Some of the Most 

Curious and Significant English, Scotch and Foreign 

Proverbs. London, 17 10. 
Percival, P. Tamil Proverbs. Madras, 1874. 
Ramsay, Allan. A Collection of Scots Proverbs. Edin- 
burgh and Glasgow, 1797. 
Rapaport, Samuel. Tales and Maxims from the Midrash. 

London and New York, 1907. 
Rattray, R. Sutherland. Ashanti Proverbs. Oxford, 

"V Ray, John. A Complete Collection of English Proverbs. 

Various Editions. 
Riis, H. N. Collection of Proverbs of the Natives of the 

Oji Tribe of Africa. Basel, 1854. 
Roberts, J. R. The Proverbs of Wales. Penmaenmawr, 

Roebuck, Thomas. A Collection of Proverbs and Proverbial 

Phrases in the Persian and Hindustani Languages. 

Calcutta, 1824. 
Segal, Louis. Russian Proverbs. London, n. d. 
Singer, Mrs. A. P. Arabic Proverbs. Cairo, 1913. 
Skeat, Walter W. Early English Proverbs. Oxford, 1910. 
Spiers, James. The Proverbs of British Guiana. Demer- 

ara, 1902. 

Authorities Consulted xiii 

Stapleton, Alfred. All About the Merry Tales of Gotham^ 

Nottingham, 1900. 
Thomas, Northcote W. Proverbs, Narratives, Vocabu- 
laries and Grammar of the Ibo-speaking People of 

Nigeria. London, 1913. 
Thorburn, S. S. Bannu. London, 1876. 
Toy, Crawford H. Critical and Exegetical Commentary 

on the Book of Proverbs. New York, 1908. 
Trench, Richard Chenerix. Proverbs and their Lessons. 

London and New York, 1905. 
Turkish Proverbs. Published by the Armenian Monaster 

of St. Lazarus. Venice, 1844. 
Upreti, Pandit Ganga Datt. Proverbs and Folk-Lore of 

Kumaun and Garhwal. London, 1894. 
Wilkinson, R. J. Malay Proverbs on Malay Character. 

Kwala Lumpor, 1907. 


Blackwood's Magazine. 1864. 

Gentlemen's Magazine. Various Dates. 

Household Words. 1852. 

Journal of the American Oriental Society. 1902. 

London Quarterly Review. 1868. 

North British Review. 1858. 

Notes and Queries. Various Dates. 

Southern Workman. 1905. 

Westminster Gazette. 19 18. 

I said that I loved the wise proverb, 

Brief, simple and deep; 
For it I'd exchange the great poem 

That sends us to sleep. 

I'd part with the talk of a neighbor 

That wearies the brain, 
Like the rondo that reaches the end, and 

Beginneth again. 

Bryan Waller Procter, A.D. 1787-1874 

The Antiquity of Proverbs 

The Antiquity of Proverbs 


The origin of most proverbs is unknown. 
"They were anterior to books," says Disraeli, 
"and formed the wisdom of the vulgar, and in 
the eariiest ages were the unwritten laws of 
morality." As a nation's proverbs predate its 
literature it is impossible to trace them to their 
beginnings. "They spring from an unknown 
source, increase in volume as they roll on and 
are adopted by all as unconsciously as they have 
sprung into existence." It is a mistake to 
assume that the earliest known record of a saying 
indicates its origin. Many with which we are 
familiar were, so far as we know, first used by 
the Romans, but the Latin language was the 
medium of innumerable Greek phrases that 
predate their Roman use and they may have 
been the utterances of unknown philosophers, 
the fragments of lost historic records, the 
attributed responses to ancient oracles or the 
accepted lessons of forgotten myths and fables. 

Articles sometimes appear in public print that 

4 The Antiquity of Proverbs 

refer to sententious phrases that are found in 
modern volumes, as proverbs, in forgetfulness 
of the fact that sayings, no matter how wise or 
clever they may be, never become proverbs 
until they are made so by common repetition. 
"Many grubs never grow to butterflies," says a 
North British Review contributor, and a maxim 
is only a proverb in its caterpillar stage — a 
candidate for a wider sphere and larger flight 
than most are destined to attain. A sentence 
must be accepted by the people and used by 
them in every day speech before it is entitled to 
a place among the folk sayings of a nation. The 
process by which a saying is converted into a 
proverb is slow and may take decades if not 


In youth we thought that the proverbs quoted 
by our elders were mere "ways of speaking," 
borrowed from others of their own generation. 
As we grew older and sought to discover from 
whence they came we were surprised to learn 
that many, if not all of them, had been used for 
centuries not only by our forbears but all over 
the world. Some we learned were used eighteen 
centuries ago by Plutarch the biographer and 
moralist, others by Menander the poet, who died 
over three hundred years before Plutarch was 
born; others by Theognis the elegiac poet of 

Introduction 5 

Megara five hundred years before Christ. Theog- 
nis* poems contained so many proverbs that a 
large number of them were selected and used as 
precepts for the conduct of the young. Others 
were repeated by Theophrastus, Aristotle, Plato 
and Pythagoras, the Greek philosophers. 

Our surprise was great when we were told that 
Pindar, the Lyric poet, and friend of Theron and 
Hieron had, a half millennium before the Chris- 
tian era, penned the words that Paul heard from 
the illumined heavens when on his way to 
Damascus — * * It is hard for thee to kick against 
the goad." 

Then we read the fables of ^Esop, who be- 
longed to an age a little earlier than that of 
Pindar, and found that all his wonderfiil stories 
were in a sense amplified proverbs and from 
which we may have derived our "One swallow 
does not make a summer, " "Heaven helps those 
who help themselves," "You cannot wash a 
blackamoor white, " and " Look before you leap." 

Searching still further we found evidences that 
some of our proverbs may have been familiar to 
Solon, the lawgiver and poet, and to the Seven 
Sages of Greece. Did not Periander declare that 
-^'Nothing is impossible to industry" and Thales 
say that "He that hateth suretyship is sure, or 
secure?" A phrase that Solomon, King of 
Israel, listed among his wise sayings three hun- 
dred years before the time of Thales. We found 
also that among the goodly number of men who 

6 The Antiquity of Proverbs 

strengthened their utterances with well-chosen 
proverbs was the Greek poet Hesiod, and before 
him Homer, the author of the Iliad and Odyssey. 

But our surprise was greatest when we dis- 
covered that the phrases, "He who is wrong 
fights against himself" and "Thou hast the 
advantage of the angry when thou keepest 
silence," were found in "The Precepts of Ptah- 
hotep," dating back to a period three thousand 
and more years before the advent of our Lord. 

Who knows but that all the men to whom 
reference has been made, and a multitude of 
others who lived in by-gone ages borrowed their 
wise sayings from the talk of the firesides and the 
conversations of the market places; so that the 
origin of many proverbs now flippantly quoted 
in the converse of men is lost in the mists of 
forgotten centuries. 


Though many of our common sayings seem 
crude and even coarse to modern ears, they have 
an honored ancestry and have been used not 
only by rough and uncouth people but by the 
wisest and noblest of teachers, so that Lord 
Chesterfield's slurring statement was out of 
place that they were the flowers of the rhetoric 
of vulgar men and characteristic of bad company. 

By them parents encouraged their children, 
teachers instructed their pupils, authors im- 

Introduction 7 

pressed their readers, orators moved their 
auditors and preachers warned and guided their 
congregations in ways of uprightness and truth. 
Leaders of men in all departments of life have 
used them with confidence and power, and 
quoted them freely in their conferences and 
counsels. They have enriched the tales of 
travelers, strengthened the convictions of moral- 
ists, been received as warnings by the wayward, 
ftUTiished rules of conduct for tradesmen, con- 
soled the downtrodden and depressed and 
stimiilated the young to earnest endeavor. 
"Sermons of the Reformation are full of them, " 
says a contributor to the North British Review. 
"Latimer often clinched his argument with a 
text from this oral Bible of the multitude; and 
Jewel mingled them with aphorisms almost as 
good of his own invention with the ready wit of 
these 'wise saws,* John Knox had his quiver 
richly furnished. . . . There is nothing of 
which Jeremy Taylor does not contain some- 
thing, consequently his works are spiced over 
with a good sprinkling of proverbs." 

In olden times the influence of proverbs over 
the hearts and lives of men was second on'y to 
the Bible. Few there were who dared to ques- 
tion their usefulness or authority. Sir William 
Sterling-Maxwell reminds us that "the qualities 
which have shaped the destinies of Scotland are 
those which are mainly inculcated in her prov- 
erbs" and adds "The story of Bruce's Spider, 

8 The Antiquity of Proverbs 

often baffled, never disheartened, and at last 
successful, points the moral which pervades 
nearly the whole of our proverbial philosophy, " 
and Mr. Benas is no less explicit regarding their 
influence in America when he says that Motley, 
the historian and diplomatist, declared "that 
the earnestness, manliness and resolute charac- 
ter of the American people, that enabled them 
not only to win their independence, but to suffer 
with patience the many trials and disappoint- 
ments inseparable from the task of building up a 
new commonwealth, was as much due to Ben- 
jamin Franklin as to George Washington; and 
that Poor Richard's Almanac, with its maxims, 
proverbs and teachings, had almost a biblical 
tendency in moulding the character of the young 
colonists. When troubles hovered over many 
an American household, Poor Richard's advice 
was resorted to as their dearest solace." Frank- 
lin himself tells us that the sayings of Poor 
Richard's Almanac "contain the wisdom of 
many ages and nations." He was not their 
author so much as their paraphraser and dis- 


The proverbs attributed to Solomon closely 
resemble those in use by the roving Arabs. It is 
not surprising that it should be so as the Jews in 
olden times intimately associated with them. 

Introduction 9 

Yet if one were to compile a large number of 
Bedouin sayings and place them side by side 
with those of the Israeli tish King he wouM ob- 
serve a wide difference in the two collections. 
Though like them in form, they would be found 
as a rule to be sensual. Sometimes they might 
show reverence for the unseen God and teach the 
most exalted morals, yet to a large extent they 
would be of the earth earthy. 

In studying Solomon's proverbs the first thing 
that we observe is that they appear to be ar- 
ranged without regard to consecutive thought. 
They are unrelated as though thrown together 
in a hasty manner ; but the arrangement is not so 
haphazard as appears, for, on closer examina- 
tion we find that the compiler had a distinct 
plan in mind according to which he classified his 
material. There are in all six different titles 
containing five groups of proverbs, each having 
sayings of the same general type, but slightly 
differing in form. One dominant purpose is 
manifest throughout the entire book; never for 
an instant does the compiler depart from it. His 
aim from beginning to end is to develop by means 
of sententious parallelisms a true conception of 
wisdom. All the proverbs have a certain dignity 
and impressiveness not found in other collections 
and bear the marks of inspiration. "All the 
heathen moralists and proverbialists joined to- 
gether, " says Professor Stuart, "cannot furnish 
us with one such book as that of the Proverbs 

10 The Antiquity of Proverbs 

in the Sacred Scriptures." John Ruskin tells 
us that his mother made him learn by heart in his 
childhood, the third, fourth, eighth and twelfth 
chapters of the book and that he regarded this 
commitment to memory as "the most precious 
and on the whole essential part of all my edu- 

One peculiarity of Solomon's collection is 
that there are scarcely any historical allusions 
in it; the proverbs are all world wide in their 
application. This is striking when it is remem- 
bered that the Jews were always religiously 
exclusive, narrowly patriotic and passionately 
enthusiastic for their race and worship. It would 
have been natural for the collector of such a 
series of proverbs as is found in his book, to have 
chosen or formed his material under the influence 
of national prejudices, but not one of the entire 
number of recorded sayings is exclusively appli- 
cable to Israel. God is frequently referred to 
but it is not the God of the chosen people but the 
God of the whole world. "If for the name 
'Yahweh' we substitute *God' says Professor 
Toy, "There is not a paragraph or a sentence in 
Proverbs which would not be as suitable for any 
other people as for Israel." The Messianic hope, 
so dear to the hearts of the Sons of Jacob, was, 
with apparent intention, set aside by the com- 
piler that nothing might interfere with the 
widest application. There are no allusions to 
the history of Israel, to the nation's oppressions 

Introduction 1 1 

and victories. Such words as * ' Israel , " " Priest ' ' 
and "Temple" are not mentioned. Even 
Jerusalem, the sacred city, is not referred to. 
Solomon wrote as a king, not as the King of 
Israel, but as an appointed instructor of all 
nations and generations. While all the wise 
sayings found in the book are familiar many 
have remained in common use among men. 
How often one hears, for example, such phrases 
as these taken from this wonderful collection: 
"Out of the heart are the issues of life, " " Ponder 
the path of thy feet, " " Go to the ant thou slug- 
gard, " "As an ox to the slaughter," "The fear 
of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, " " Stolen - 
waters are sweet," "The hand of the diligent 
maketh rich," "A false balance is abomination 
to the Lord," "In the multitude of counsellers 
there is safety," "There is that scatter eth and 
yet increaseth, " "The liberal soul shall be made 
fat," "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick," 
"Righteousness exalteth a nation," "A soft 
answer turneth away wrath," "Pride goeth 
before destruction and a haughty spirit before a 
fall," "The hoary head is a crown of glory," 
"A fool when he holds his peace is counted 
wise," "A man that hath friends must show 
himself friendly," "A faithful man who can 
find, " "A good name is rather to be chosen than 
great riches," "Train up a child in the way he 
should go, " "Buy the truth and sell it not " and 
"Where there is no vision the people perish. " 

12 The Antiquity of Proverbs 


In Old Testament times men used proverbs 
freely and it is not surprising that many ancient 
maxims crept into the sacred text. It is not 
improbable that Malachi had one in mind when 
he charged Israel with disloyalty to Jehovah, 
saying, "When ye offer the blind for sacrifice, 
it is no evil, and when ye offer the lame and sick 
it is no evil " (Mai. i : 8). The Spaniards today 
have substantially the same thought in mind 
when they say "Let that which is lost be for 
God." In the book of Job (34: 29) we find a 
reference to the eagle's or vulture's practice cf 
feeding on carrion, which was alluded to by our 
Lord (Matt. 24: 28, Luke 17 : 37). The vulture's 
liking for putrefying flesh was well known to the 
ancients which furnished them with a saying 
closely resembling the Latin phrase: "Where 
the corpse is there will the vulture be." In the 
same book (Job 14: 19) we find the expression — 
"The waters wear the stones" — which corre- 
sponds to our modern saying, "Constant drop- 
ping wears the stone. ' * The question of Jeremiah 
(13: 23) "can the Ethiopian change his skin 
or the leopard his spots?" — has become a 
proverb, if it was not one in the prophet's time. 
Many nations have phrases akin to it. For 
example, the Turks say: "Washing a negro we 
lose our soap," the Persians declare that "A 
black cat will not wash white by soap"; the 

Introduction 13 

Behar people ask each other the question: "Can 
the crow become white by eating camphor?" 
A phrase that George Herbert (1639) rendered 
"The bath of a blackamoor hath sworn not to — 
whiten." The phrase "Skin for skin" (Job 
2 : 4) was probably a well-known expression, * 

which Satan emphasized by the addition of the ^ /^ 
statement " All that a man hath will he give for ^ ^ 
his life." The old Hebrew proverb " Is Saul also yiMr 
among the prophets" (I Sam. 19:24) had its 
origin in a well-known incident recorded in I 
Sam. 10: 12. The phrase "As the mother, so- — 
the daughter" (See Psa. 106:35-40; Ezek. 16: 
44) has its parallel in a multitude of modern 
maxims. The words of the wise woman re- 
corded in II Sam. 20: 18: "They shall surely 
ask counsel of Abel" — i.e. Abel-beth-maacah, a 
place in upper Galilee celebrated for the wisdom 
of its inhabitants, was a familiar saying long 
before she repeated it. Zebah and Zalmunna 
probably quoted a proverb when they said "As 
the man is so is his strength" (Judges 8: 21). 
The axiom — "A living dog is better than a dead ; 
lion — found in Ecclesiastes 9 : 4 is still in com- 
mon use not only in England and America but 
in other lands. It must have been very expres- 
sive to the men of Solomon's day, who thought 
only of the undomesticated, prowling dog of the 
streets and the lion, king of all beasts. David 
quoted a well-known proverb, if not the oldest 
one in existence, when he vindicated himself 

14 The Antiquity of Proverbs 

with the words " Out of the wicked cometh forth 
wickedness" (I Sam. 24: 13) which was equiva- 
lent to saying character determines conduct, or 
as Isaiah put it — "The fool will speak folly" 
[Isaiah 20: 11) and as Christ declared — "The 
corrupt tree will bringeth forth evil fruit" 
(Matt. 7: 17). The phrase, "Dead flies cause 
the oil of the perfumer to send forth an evil 
odour" found in Ecclesiastes 10: i is equivalent 
to the French, Spanish and Italian saying "A 
little gall spoils a great deal of honey," the 
Dutch, "One rotten apple in the basket infects 
the whole quantity," the German, "One rotten 
egg spoils the whole pudding," the Danish and 
Italian, "One mangy sheep spoils the whole 
flock" and the Russian "A spoonful of tar in a 
barrel of honey and all is spoiled." 

" Now if some flies perchance, however small, 
Into the alabaster urn should fall, 
The odours of the sweets enclosed would die; 
And stench corrupt, sad change their place supply." 

Matthew Prior. 

It was common in Old Testament times for 
men to refer to those of their ntunber who were 
celebrated for proverbs as "Like Nimrod, " who 
we are told was a mighty hunter before the Lord. 
"Like Nimrod" was a proverbial simile that was 
suggestive of a multitude of legends, stories of 
impossible achievements, and folk tales repeated 

Introduction 15 

among the people — some of which are preserved 
in the Talmud. 

Scattered throughout the Sacred Oracles are 
sayings borrowed from e very-day life. Some are 
now unrecognized as popular dicta, others are 
spoken of as parables, while a few are distinctly 
designated as proverbs. 


Many of the proverbs found in the New Testa- 
ment are of pure Hebrew origin, but not all. 
The Jews, in their intercourse with men from 
other lands, borrowed a large mmiber of maxims. 
The precepts of the common people are always 
great travelers, and pass easily from one dis- 
trict to another. Those that were quoted in 
Palestine in the days of Christ included some 
that came from Assyria, Babylonia, Persia and 

A few centuries ago the people of England 
laughed at the men of Gotham and counted 
them as fools. Today their children make merry 
over their fathers' prejudice and repeat the 
nursery rhyme: 

" Three wise men of Gotham went to sea in a bowl, 
If the bowl had been stronger, my tale would have been 

So in New Testament times the Jews taunted 

i6 The Antiquity of Proverbs 

the men of Nazareth and quoted the proverb, 
"Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" 
(John 1 : 46) to prove the untrustworthiness of 
our Lord's claim. Nazareth had an evil repu- 
tation and its inhabitants were compelled to 
live under reproach. 

Jesus, who understood the hearts of his coun- 
trymen, said to them, "Doubtless you will say 
unto me this parable or proverb: 'Physician 
heal thyself ' (Liike 4 : 23) and then added 
another familiar saying "A prophet is not with- 
out honor save in his own country and in his own 
house" (Matt. 13:57) which has its parallel in 
all parts of the world under various forms. The 
same thought is quaintly expressed in Hindustan 
by their phrase "A Jogee is called a Jogra in his 
own village, but one from another village is 
called Sidh." No less striking is the Telugu 
dictum — "The tree in the back yard won't do 
for medicine." 

Sitting by Jacob's well the Master referred to a 
familiar observation, when he asked His dis- 
ciples, "Say ye not there are yet four months 
and then cometh harvest?" (John 4:35) and 
then proceeded to speak of the need of laborers 
in the field of service. 

The excuse maker, who refused to follow 
Christ, plead that he must first go and bury his 
father, not because his father was dead or even 
was nearing death, but because the p overbial 
expression furnished him a convenient pretext 

Introduction 17 

for delay. The saying then current is still used 
in the East. 

To another excuse maker Jesus said, ** No man 
having put his hand to the plow and looking 
back is fit for the kingdom" (Luke 9: 62), thus 
suggesting to his hearer the picture of a laborer 
seeking to drive his plow while at the same time 
he continually turned to look back at some ob- 
ject that interested him instead of keeping his 
eyes on the furrow. Such a familiar picture 
would naturally lead to some proverb indicative 
of divided attention, which would be similar to 
the phrase used by Jesus. 

Our Lord, in his Sermon on the Mount, de- 
clared that "One jot or tittle of the law" (Matt. 
5: 18) would not pass until all was fulfilled. In 
so speaking he repeated a common aphorism. 
The people were wont to use the phrase "one 
jot or tittle " whenever they desired to emphasize 
the impossibility of detraction. 

In that same hillside sermon Jesus joined two ^ 
proverbs when He declared that "With what 
measure ye mete it shall be measured unto you" 
(Matt. 7: 2) and asked "Why beholdest thou ^^ 
the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but con- 
siderest not the beam that is in thine own eye? " 
(Matt. 7:3). The first of these is found in the 
Talmud and corresponds to the Persian phrase 
**As he does to others so he will be done by" 
and the other is paralled by a large number of 
modern sayings. 

l8 The Antiquity of Proverbs 

^ ^ " In other men we faults can spy 
C !' ' And blame the mote that dims their eye 

Each little speck and error find 
To our own stronger error blind." 

John Gay. 

In the fable of The Fisherman Piping ^sop 
furnished not only his countrymen, but the world 
beside, with an expression that was well known 
in Christ's day and which He probably quoted 
when He compared His own generation to 
children in the market place calling to their 
playmates, **We have piped unto you and ye 
^ did not dance" (Matt, ii : 17). 

It is probable that Jesus had in mind a gnome 
or set of gnomes when he encouraged His dis- 
ciples to pray saying: "Of which of you that is 
a father shall his son ask a loaf and he give 
him a stone, or a fish and he for a fish give him 
a serpent, or if he ask for an egg will he give 
him a scorpion" (Matt. 7: 9, 10). Long before 
His day the Greeks used the phrase "A scorpion 
for a perch." 

At one time Christ admonished His disciples 
regarding the Pharisees. "Let them alone," 
He said, "They are blind guides " (Matt. 15 : 14). 
It was not uncommon to use the ternP^blind 
guides" when speaking of false teachers and He 
frequently applied it to the Pharisees. On this 
occasion He added a proverb, saying, "If the 
--^^blind guide the blind both shall fall into a pit." 
The Bengalese in the same way speak in derision 

Introduction 19 

of " blind torch bearers . ' * Then quoting another 
common saying He charged the Pharisees with 
'straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel" 
(Matt. 23: 24). 

Camels were frequently referred to in the 
street expressions and by words of the people 
and we find Him in the current language of the 
day declaring that it was "easier for a camel to 
go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to 
enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19: 24) — 
a phrase which is still used in the Orient under 
various forms. 

On another occasion He denounced the lawyers 
and charged them with loading burdens on others 
that they themselves would not "touch with one 
of their fingers" (Matt. 23:4) reminding us of 
Cicero's expression "to touch, so to speak with 
the finger." Prestunedly the phrase was in 
common use in Christ's day as it was in that of 
the Roman orator. 

Seeing the husbandman scattering his seed, 
He thought of another proverb that had been 
current eight hundred years, as we find Hesiod 
using it in his "Theogony, " and said, "One 
soweth and another reapeth" (John 4: 37). 

With marvelous power of character delinea- 
tion Jesus pictured in parable a certain servant 
to whom a trust had been committed and who, 
being unfaithful, excused himself on the ground 
that he knew his master to be a hard man and 
then added a proverb in certification of his state- 

20 The Antiquity of Proverbs 

ment, "Reaping," said he, "Where thou didst 
not sow and gathering where thou didst not 
scatter" (Matt. 25:24). 

In our Lord's charge to His disciples of all 
time, that they should refrain from anxiety 
because of the Heavenly Father's knowledge of 
their desires and needs He closed His plea with 
a well-known proverbial expression — "Sufficient 
unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matt. 6: 34) 
which Tyndale (a.d. 1534) quaintly rendered 
"The daye present hath ever ynough of his 
awne trouble." 

At a feast at which Jesus was present, we read 
that a certain man was so impressed with His 
wisdom that he lifted up his voice and praised 
Him in the presence of the assembled guests 
repeating a common saying of the day "Blessed 
is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of 
God" (Luke 14: 15). 

In turning the pages of the gospels one may 
meet phrases that were on the lips of the people. 
Some were real proverbs, others proverb germs. 
Men spoke, for example, of "the gates of Hades " 
as a symbol of power, of "hanging a millstone 
about the neck and casting into the sea" as a 
dire punishment for a transgressor, of a "grain 
of mustard seed" as representing something 
exceedingly small, of a "tree being known by 
its fruit" as appropriately illustrating the rela- 
tion of reputation to character and of "fearing 
not God nor regarding man" as indicating the 

Introduction 21 

mental state of one who disregarded spiritual 
and material powers. 

We also find in the epistles frequent quota- 
tions of familiar maxims. The apostles like their 
master were men among men and the common 
people heard them gladly. When Paul said 
that "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" 
(Gal. 5:9) he was quoting a popular saying not 
unlike the Old Testament proverb "Dead flies 
cause the oil of the perfimier to send forth an evil 
odor" (Eccles. 10: i), already referred to, and 
when he declared that "Evil communications 
corrupt good manners" (I Cor. 15: 33) he was 
doing the same thing. 

In writing to the Romans (12: 19) he said: 
"It is written vengeance belongeth unto me I 
will recompense saith the Lord" — which H. A. 
W. Meyer tells us had become in Paul's day a 
familiar proverbial warning formula. The 
phrase "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he 
also reap" (Gal. 6: 7) was also an axiom which 
has continued in use until the present time and 
which the inhabitants of the Malabar district of 
India quaintly render "When anyone has learned 
to steal, he must also learn hanging." 

The Apostle Peter probably quoted current 
sayings in his epistles. He wrote ' ' Love covereth 
a multitude of sins" (I Peter 4:8), "A dog 
turns to his own vomit again" (II Peter 2: 22) 
and "A sow that is washed to wallowing in the 
mire" (II Peter 2 : 22). 

22 The Antiquity of Proverbs 

Were we more familiar with the popular dicta 
of the Holy Land in the first century we would 
recognize many sayings' no longer used even by 
the Jews. No more accurate portrait of life 
among the common people is to be found any- 
where than is given in the pages of the Old and 
New Testaments. It is natural therefore to 
expect to find there quoted expressions that 
were habitually used. 


The apocryphal books of the Bible like the 
Bible itself contain many by-words and phrases 
that were in use at the time of their composition. 
Ecclesiasticus has perhaps more than the others. 
There one will find the quotation "A slip on the 
pavement is better than a slip with the tongue" 
corresponding to the English saying "a slip of 
the foot may be soon recovered but that of the 
tongue never." "A faithful friend is a strong 
defence" corresponding to our familiar precept. 
"A friend in need is a friend indeed" and "Birds 
of a feather resort unto their like" corresponding 
to the often repeated "Birds of a feather flock 

In the early centuries of the Christian era, the 
Jews collected a large number of aphorisms that 
are now found in the Talmud, intermingling them 
with the sayings of the Rabbis, many of which 
in turn have become a part of the world's store of 
proverbial wisdom. In the Talmud we find for 

Introduction 23 

example the phrase "The camel went to seek 
horns and its ears were cut off" corresponding 
to our "To go for wool and return shorn." 

"Every pumpkin is known by its stem" corre- 

sponding to "Like father like son," "When the 
barley is constmied from the pitcher strife knocks 
and enters the house" corresponding to our 
"When poverty comes in at the door, love flies 
out through the window, " "The talk of the child 
in the street is that of his father or his mother, " 
corresponding to our "What the child hears at 
the fireside it repeats in the market place." 
"Should the castle totter, its name is still castle; 
should the dunghill be raised, its name is still 
dunghill, " "Should the peasant become king the 
soup does not leave his neck," and "Hang the 
heart of a palm tree around a sow and it will act 
as usual" — all corresponding to our "Set a 
beggar on horseback and he will gallop" and -7 
"Apes are apes although clothed in scarlet." — - 
"In the field where there are mounds talk no .. 
secrets" corresponding to our "Fields have eyes 
and woods have ears." The three Talmudic 
sayings "Approach the perfvmier and thou wilt 
be perfumed," "The governor took us by the 
hand and the scent came into the hand" and 
"The servant of a king is like a king" — all 
corresponding to our "Walk with a cripple and 
you will learn to limp." 

We are told in the Exodus Rabba that when 
Moses performed miracles to convince Pharaoh 

24 The Antiquity of Proverbs 

of his divine commission the king only ridiculed 
wonder works saying sarcastically "Art thou 
bringing straw to Eprayne" and again "Who 

^. carries mviria (which was a kind of salt) to Spain, 

or fish to Acco?" These sayings put in the 

mouth of Pharaoh correspond to our "Carrying 

coals to Newcastle," and "Owls to Athens." 

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Thessalo- 

t/ nians said "If any will not work neither let him 
eat" and in the Genesis Rabba we find it written 
"God designed man to work — work for his own 
X sustenance; he who does not work shall not eat." 
The following well-known proverbs are all 
found in the Talmud: "He whom a serpent hath 
bitten is terrified at a rope, " "When the ox falls 
they sharpen their knives," "Cast no mud into 
the well from which thou hast drunk, " "The rose 

^ grown among thorns," "Rather be the tail 
among lions than the head among foxes, " "Few 
are they who see their own faults, " "When wine 
enters the head the secret flies out, " "Say little 

^ and do much," "The soldiers fight and the 

y^ kings are heroes" and "The dog follows thee for 
the crumbs in thy pocket." 


As proverbs pass from one country to another 
and continue in use through successive genera- 
tions local conditions and carelessness of repeti- 
tion frequently cause slight changes in their 
forms without altering their character or pur- 

Introduction 25 

port. The Englishman, for example, will say 
of the exaggerator that he makes "a mountain 
out of a molehill" while the North Indian will 
declare that he makes it out of a mustard seed. 
We say that "they who live in glass houses 
should not throw stones" while Chaucer wrote, 
"Who that has a head of glass from casting 
stones let him beware." Long before Chaucer 
was born the Spaniards were repeating the same 
proverb in the phrase, "He that has a roof of 
glass should not throw stones at his neighbor" — 
which so far as is known is the oldest form. The 
mountaineer will naturally change a lowland 
proverb so that it will be adapted to his own 
habits of life and the ranchman will alter a sea- 
farer's maxim so that it will be understood by 
his associates: As * there is no difference be- 
tween bread and milk and milk and bread," as 
the residents of Old Britany say, so there is no 
real difference between altered proverbs that 
contain the same thought and have the same 

Sometimes the form of a proverb will remain 
unaltered from one generation to another while 
the meaning will change. Take the saying, for 
example, "The more haste the less speed" which 
we understand to mean, one does not gain by 
hurrying. But our forefathers did not so under- 
stand it, for "speed" was used by them in the 
sense of "prosper," giving the phrase an en- 
tirely different purport. The adage "Kissing 

26 The Antiquity of Proverbs 

goes by favor" is another saying that has altered 
its meaning. To us it signifies that selected 
people alone are kissed, but in olden times the 
word "favor" was applied to looks or general 
appearance, which changed the meaning of the 
phrase. We find this old meaning of "favor" 
in our English Bible where it is written "Rachel 
was beautiful and well favored" (Gen. 29:17). 
Notwithstanding such changes, proverbs travel 
from one district to another and are handed down 
by parents to children in substantially the same 

It must be remembered, however, that al- 
though slight alterations take place -with the 
passing of years proverbs always remain com- 
plete. Fragments are without significance and 
popular sayings always have a definite meaning 
to those who use them. Agricola called them 
condensed rules of life, James [Howells styled 
them weighty material in small packages and 
quaint Thomas Fuller spoke of them as decoc- 
tions. It is true that Aristotle declared them to 
be remnants which because of their shortness 
and correctness had been saved from the wreck 
and ruin of ancient philosophy, but he never 
intended to imply that they were incomplete. 


J. G. Holland tells us that "the proverbs of a 
nation furnish the index to its spirit and the re- 
sults of its civilization. ' ' While this may to some 

Introduction 27 

extent be true, it must not be inferred that all the 
proverbs of a country are indicative of its char- 
acter or that any collection of a nation's sayings 
is a safe guide to its inner life, for many phrases 
that are thus properly listed are of common 
heritage and belong as truly to one nation as 
another. Sometimes phrases that are used in 
one district have been borrowed not from the 
people of another adjacent district but from an 
entirely alien race. "Mushrooms never grow 
after they are seen" is an old saying attributed 
to the Irish and understood as indicating a cer- 
tain Celtic superstition, but its real significance 
is that mushrooms are so desirable that they are 
gathered as soon as they make their appearance. 
It is the same with proverbs. A short, crisp 
sentence that is exact and pointed is sure to be 
adopted so soon as it is heard. This is particu- 
larly true of witty sayings. The nations of the 
world are at all times taking proverbs from each 
other and adding them to their store. It there- 
fore follows that only such as have been in con- 
stant use among the people of any district for a 
long period of time and are particularly adapted 
to their daily life are of any value to the ethnolo- 
gist in determining the thoughts, feelings and 
purposes of such people. The fact that proverbs 
are modified and toned by the prevailing char-" 
acteristics of the nation that uses them is true 
but it is no less true that they in turn influence 
the nation's habits of thought and the influence 

28 The Antiquity of Proverbs 

is so subtle and shows itself so gradually that 
while those in constant use throw light on the 
character of the people only students are able 
to discern their bearing. This, however, may 
be known to anyone who reads even superficially 
the folk sayings of the world. All nations and 
tribes belong to one human family and have the 
same characteristics and ambitions, no matter 
how much one may claim superiority over an- 
other. Conditions of life cause variant habits 
of speech but that does not indicate that there 
is any intrinsic difference in nature. The heart 
of the sturdy fisherman who braves the storms 
on the coast of Labrador and the indolent de- 
pendent on the natural products of the tropics, 
the intensive trader competing with his fellows 
on the noisy exchange and the lonely woodsman 
dwelling in the depths of the forest are all 
brothers, with common selfish and religious in- 
stincts and all reveal their brotherhood by 
repeating the same saws and maxims. 


It has been thought strange that proverbs 
are not as commonly used as they were in olden 
times. They were frequently quoted in the 
pulpit by preachers of the Reformation, cited in 
argument by authors of the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries and constantly repeated in 
conversation at the firesides and market places 
in the middle ages. Today they are seldom 

Introduction 29 . 

heard. This is not because the present genera- 
tion does not appreciate wise and witty phrases 
or is loath to quote bright and instructive ex- 
pressions. Epigrammatic sayings are regarded 
with favor everywhere, yet proverbs, no matter 
how wise and pertinent they may be, are rarely 
used. The extension of commercial relations and 
the enlargement of experience has had much to 
do with this change in habits of speech. * * When 
Scotland began to have cities and seaports," it 
has been said, "she almost ceased to produce 
prov-erbs" — so has it been everywhere. In 
olden times the repetition of popular observa- 
tions regarding the weather, health and ways of 
living, though more common in rural districts 
than in the more thickly populated sections, was 
general. Men everywhere stored their minds 
with precepts and counsels both for self-direction 
and instruction and admonition, but commerce 
and association with the outside world enlarged 
the vision and made the use of gnomes less 

There is another and greater reason why 
proverbs are not so popular as in olden times. 
The printing press has wrought a change in the 
thoughts and habits of men. While the print- 
ing press has, according to a well-known au- 
thority, sought to continue the use of proverbs 
by the production of no less than two thousand 
books that directly relate to them, many of 
which have been compilations, its influence has 

30 The Antiquity of Proverbs 

been greater in stimulating the thoughts and 
enlightening the minds of people and has there- 
fore been far more potent in causing their disuse 
than their use. Yet the work of proverb com- 
pilers has not been in vain for by the preserva- 
tion of phrases once used in the affairs of life we 
learn the manner of men who lived and wrought 
in the world. "They being dead yet speak" 
and we enter into a large inheritance by reason 
of their wisdom. 

Books, pamphlets and periodicals have given 
the people a more practical knowledge of. the 
world than it would have been possible for them 
to obtain in any other way, broadened their 
visions so that they have been able to under- 
stand the bearing of natural laws on their daily 
lives and taught them to think for themselves 
and express their opinions more clearly and 
forcefully than they could by the repetition of 
set phrases. In past ages, when few could read, 
it was necessary to memorize wise and terse 
forms of speech and repeat wise adages but that 
need has passed. Superstition, that haunted 
the lives of our fathers and expressed itself in a 
myriad folk sayings, has been superseded to a 
large extent by reason. Men no longer accept 
a saying as true because it is old or is constantly 
repeated; they ask for the reason of things and 
will not be satisfied until they know. 

Furthermore, people have learned that a 
proverb cannot be always true. " I am of opin- 

Introduction 31 

ion that there are no proverbial sayings which 
are not true," said Cervantes, "because they 
are all sentences drawn from experience itself, 
which is the mother of all sciences." But 
proverbs at best are only half truths. For that 
reason we find some that contradict the teaching 
of others. "A rolling stone gathers no moss" 
but it is equally true that "A setting hen never 
gets fat." "Friends and mules fail us in hard 
places" but that does not prevent our declaring 
with emphasis that "A friend is best found in 
adversity." " Honesty may be the best policy " 
yet "Honesty is praised and starves." How 
often have parents warned their children with 
the words " Marry in haste and repent at leisure " 
and fail to remind them that "Happy is the 
wooing that is not long in doing." Proverbs can 
be depended upon as statements of truth when 
viewed from a certain angle, and are properly 
used and forcefully quoted only when thus con- 
sidered. This use of proverbs is clearly marked 
in Solomon's wise admonition to "Answer not a 
fool according to his folly lest thou also be like 
unto him" (Prov. 26:4) and his no less wise 
advice to "Answer a fool according to his folly, 
lest he be wise in his own conceit" (Prov. 26:5). 


Though proverbs are no longer treasured in 
the mind and used on all occasions they still 
have their value and Allan Ramsay's advice 

32 The Antiquity of Proverbs 

may be repeated : " As naething helps our happi- 
ness mair than to have the mind made up wi' 
right principles, I desire you for the thriving and 
pleasure of you and yours, to use your een and 
lend your lugs to these guid auld saws, that 
shine wi* wail'd sense, and will as lang as the 
world wags." The good old saws with their 
admonitions and warnings are of value still for 
thriving and pleasure and worth storing in the 
mind for thought and guidance. Gifted poets 
of bygone ages, profound philosophers, eloquent 
preachers, faithful students and men of letters 
have collected and used them with appropriate- 
ness and power, and we may well follow their 
example. "In whatever language it may be 
written," said Max Muller, ** every line, every 
word is welcome that bears the impress of the 
early days of mankind." 

Through them as through the old legends, 
songs, ballads, traditions, rhymes, superstitions 
and customs, we trace the moral and ethical 
development of the races, and learn the workings 
of the mind amid conditions other than our own. 
1 They are the "wisdom of the ages," but their 
•^ wisdom is not found in their depth of thought or 
breadth of vision but rather in what Coleridge 
called their "commonsense in an uncommon 
degree." Their wisdom is not the wisdom of the 
schools but of the street, the farm and the 

Education and enlightenment have not in the 

Introduction 3^ 

least degree depreciated their value; they have 
only changed the character of their service. 
They may no longer be appealed to as authority 
but they still contain truths that are as old as 
man and suggest to both writers and public 
speakers lines of thought that bear on the 
problems of the present age. "They are the 
safest index to the inner life of a people," says 
Mr. A. Cohen, "with their aid we can construct 
a mental image of the conditions of existence, 
the manners, characteristics, morals and Wel- 
tanschauung of the community which used them. 
They present us with the surest data upon 
which to base our knowledge of Volkspsy- 
chologie.'* But more than an index they are of 
value to all who seek to serve their f ellowmen in 
revealing to them the forces that move their con- 
sciences and wills. "A really good proverb," 
says Sir William Sterling-Maxwell, "is a coin as 
fine as any that ever was struck in the mint of 

As few people realize the antiquity of the com- 
mon proverbs, I have selected a few of the most 
familiar sayings and sought to indicate in some 
degree their great age and the high esteem in 
which they have been held not alone by the 
common people but by literary workers of the 
past and present. I have added a few groups of 
folk sayings that indicate how widely they or 
their equivalents have been used by people in 

34 The Antiquity of Proverbs 

all parts of the world. It need hardly be said 
that the proverbs selected are only representa- 
tive. There are a multitude of other common 
phrases that are just as old and that have been 
just as popular in the past, but enough examples 
have been given to enable the reader to realize 
the large place that proverbs have held in the 
esteem of men, for the development of charac- 
ter and wise direction in the affairs of daily life. 

The original renderings of foreign phrases 
have not been given as such renderings would 
add to the size of the book without increasing its 
usefulness to the general reader, but care has 
been taken to use only such renderings as have 
been approved by competent translators. 

The languages and dialects indicated in 
parenthesis after the proverbs quoted are not 
intended to signify that such proverbs are 
found only in the languages and dialects given 
but rather to show their most pronounced 

The small figures following the proverb head- 
ings refer to pages in Curiosities in Proverbs 
where the same saying is quoted and in many 
cases annotated. 

It is hoped that the book will be found in- 
teresting and instructive and will lead to a 
greater appreciation of the value of the sayings 
of our fathers who helped to give us the heritage 
of wisdom and truth. 

38, 294 

Proverbs Annotated 


Certainty is better than uncertainty, possession 
is better than prospect. 

Though caution and prudence are commend- 
able, the truthfiilness of the proverb under all cir- 
cumstances may be questioned. The refusal to 
take business risks would stop the wheels of in- 
dustry and prevent social, political and com- 
mercial advancement. While possession may 
sometimes be better than prospect, "prospect 
is often better than possession" (English). 

The Teluges compare men who give up a cer- 
tainty for an uncertainty to a jumping leech 
that never lets go its head in its forward move- 
ment, till it grasps its feet, and say that he is 
*'like the leaping leech," while the Osmanli 
peasants decline to use a simile and substitute 
the proverb, "Forty birds that are in the 
mountain are worth one farthing"; but the 
Italians give the thought a religious turn and 
affirm that ** God helps him who is in possession." 

Mr. F, Edward Hulme draws attention to 

36 Proverbs Annotated 

the difference in our English rendering of the 
proverb and that of the Scotch. He says that 
the leading idea in both the Scottish version: 
"A bird in the hand is worth twa fleeing bye" 
and the English declaration that "A bird in the 
hand is worth two in the bush" "is the greater 
value of a small certainty than a larger possi- 
bility; but while the twittering of the free birds 
in the bush may be provoking there is at least 
the possibility of their capture, while the Scot- 
tish version gives a still greater value to our 
possession, seeing that even as we grasp it, the 
possibility of increasing our store is rapidly 
passing away. 

As to the origin of the saying, it belongs to 
that class of proverbs that spring spontaneously 
into popularity among widely separated people. 
Nathan Bailey, early in the eighteenth century, 
was of the opinion that it was borrowed from 
the Hebrews or Greeks but gave no reason for 
his opinion. The thought was undoubtedly 
expressed in proverbial form by both the Greeks, 
and the Romans long before the Christian era. 
Some have thought that it originated in the 
well known Cuckoo story of the Gothamites 
which Mr. J. O. Halliwell gives in the following 
words : 

*'0n a time the men of Gotham, fain would 
have pinn'd in the cuckoo, whereby she should 
sing all the year; and in the midst of the town 
they had a hedge made round in compass, and 

A Bird in the Hand 57 

they had got a cuckoo, and put her into it, and 
said, ' Sing here, and you shall lack neither meat 
nor drink all the year.* The cuckoo when she 
perceived herself encompassed within the hedge, 
she flew away. *A vengeance on her,' said the 
wise men, *We made not our hedge high 

Alfred Stapleton, who made a study of Not- 
tingham lore, said that he sometimes wondered 
whether the cuckoo story, or some similar tradi- 
tion, may not have had something to do with 
the origin of the saying "A bird in the hand is 
worth two in the bush." If the proverb sprang 
from some such tale we must not forget that all 
the Gothamite stories predate their application 
to the fools of that town. 

Lord Surrey, we are told, at one time gave a 
kingfisher to Sumers, the jester to King Henry 
VIII. Learning afterwards that Lord North- 
ampton desired the bird he asked Siuners to 
return it to him and promised that if he would 
do so he would compensate him later with the 
gift of two kingfishers; but the jester thinking 
that possession was better than prospect re- 
fused to comply with Lord Surrey's request 
saying, "A bird in the hand is worth two in 
the bush." 

iEsop (B.C. 561) has several fables bearing on 
the lesson of the proverb, as for example. The 
Fisherman and the Sprat and The Partridge and 
the Fowler, but the most striking one is the story 

38 Proverbs Annotated 

of The Nightingale and the Hawk, which runs as 
follows : 

A nightingale was sitting, according to custom, 
on the bough of an oak singing. A hungry hawk 
that was watching for prey heard the nightin- 
gale's song and swooped down on her, seized her 
in his talons. " Spare me," cried the poor little 
songster, "I never did you wrong, I am only a 
little bird, so very little that I could not satisfy 
■ your hunger. There are other birds in the woods 
that are larger and better than I am." "Spare 
you," returned the hawk, "Not I, for I have 
been on the watch for you all day and I am not 
foolish enough to give up a certainty for an 

//^ /" " Better one bird in hand, than ten in the wood 

''^ Better for birders, but for birds not so good" 

John Heywood, a.d. i 497-1 580. 

"Come, master, I have hair enough in my 
beard to make a counsellor, and my advice is as 
fit for you as your shoe is for your foot ; a bird in 
the hand is worth two in the bush." — Miguel 
DE Cervantes Saavedra, a.d. i 547-1 61 6, Don 

"As they. were at supper, 'Well, Sir,' quoth the 
squire, 'What a rare fool I have been, had I 
chosen for my good news the spoils of your first 
/ adventure, instead of the breed of the three 
mares! Troth, commend me to the saying *A 
bird in hand is worth two in the bush.'" — 
Cervantes, Don Quixote. 

A Bird in the Hand 39 

''Interpreter, so he said, these two lads are 
figures; Passion, of the men of this world, and 
Patience, of the men of that which is to come: 
for as here thou seest. Passion will have all now, 
this year, that is to say, in this world; so are the 
men of this world ; they must have all their good 
things now; they cannot stay till the next year, 
that is, until the next world, for their portion of 
good. That proverb, 'A bird in the hand is 
worth two in the bush * is of more authority with 
them than are all the divine testimonies of the 
good of the world to come." — John Bunyan, 
A.D. 1 628-1 688, Pilgrim's Progress. 

*' 'Tis not always true, that the bird I have in 
my hand, is justly my own, but if nobody else 
has a better claim to't, I would not part with it 
for forty birds that are in the bush only, and far 
enough out of my reach. A person may be 
pretty sure then of the thing he possesses; 'tis 
safe in his keeping but if he once lets it slip 
through his fingers, by grasping at more airy 
prospects, he may bid adieu to the ever having 
of it any more in his clutches. There will be no 
catching of the bird again, after it is once flown 
out of his power. ... All men, I suppose, 
whether Greeks, Latins, Italians, French or 
English, who ever read or wrote of proverbs will 
readily grant me that it is better to have an egg 
today than a hen tomorrow; that the present 
pleasure is more eligible than a future enjoyment; 
that it is safer to stick to certainty than to 

40 Proverbs Annotated 

chance; that what's in the fist is worth two in 
the fen; or that one horse in the stable is more 
useful for present service than three in the 
pasture. . . . Who but a knight errant would 
not accept of a -real competent estate in pos- 
session, and hug himself in the enjoyment of it, 
rather than live fictitiously expecting the 
imaginary monarchy of the world of the moon 
in reversion." — Oswald Dykes, a.d. 1707, 
Moral Reflections. 

"This proverb intimates that possession is a 
mighty matter and precautions us not to run 
the hazard of a certain loss for an uncertain 
gain ; and teaches us that futurities are liable to 
disappointments; no depending on shall or will 
hereafter, and no commanding things out of our 
hand five tenses distant from fruition." — 
Nathan Bailey, died a.d. 1724, Diverse Proverbs. 

"The Italians say : * Better be bird of the wood 
than bird of the cage.' This is rightly enough 
the bird's point of view; but the owner of the 
cage puts things rather differently, and de- 
clares: 'Better one bird in the hand than ten in 
the wood.' The ItaHans say that, *It is better 
to have an egg today than a hen tomorrow,' but 
this surely is rather overdoing the thing. Even 
though present gain may outweigh future grander 
possibilities, the policy may be too narrowly 
pinched, and does away with legitimate hope." 
— F. Edward Hulme, a.d. i 841-1909, Proverb 

A Bird in the Hand 41 

"This proverb turns up in several forms but it 
always means that we are to prefer that which 
we have to that which we only expect. It is a 
proverb of this world only and is not true on 
the broad field of eternal things. There our 
bird in the bush is worth all the birds that ever 
were in mortal hand." — Charles H. Spurgeon, 
A.D. 1 834-1 892, The Salt Cellars. 

"There is a race of narrow wits that never get 
rich for want of courage. Their understanding 
is of that halting, balancing kind which gives a 
man just enough light to see difficulties and start 
doubts, but not enough to surmount the one or to 
remove the other. They never get ahead an 
inch, because they are always hugging some 
coward maxim, which they can only interpret 
literally. 'Never change a certainty for an 
uncertainty,' * A bird in the hand is worth two in 
the bush,' are their favorite saws; and very good 
ones they are too, but not to be followed too 
slavishly. Of what use is it * to be sawing about 
a set of maxims to which there is a complete set 
of antagonist maxims?' Proverbs, it has been 
well said, should be sold in pairs, a single one 
being but a half truth." — William Mathews, 
Getting on in the World, 

" 'A bird in the hand is worth two 
In the bush' — so the proverbs say; 
But then, what on earth can you do, 
If the bird in your hand flies away?" 

Harper's Bazar, Jtme23, 1877. 

42 Proverbs Annotated 


A beggar — ^who comes — to foot quickly is better than a 
master who comes to hand late. (Osmanli). 

A bird in the hand is worth a dozen on wing. (Gaelic). 

A bird in the cage is worth a hundred at large. (Italian). 

A bird in the hand is better than a hundred — or thousand — 
flying. (Spanish). 

A bird in the hand is worth two fleeing by. (Scotch, Dutch, 

A bird in the hand is worth two in the wood. (English). 

A bird in the hand is worth two on the wing. (Guernsey). 

A captured bird is worth a thousand on the green. (Latin) . 

A crown in the pocket doth you more good than an angel 
spent. (English). 

A feather in the hand is better than a bird in the air. 

An egg of today is better than the fowl of tomorrow. 

A pullet in the pen is worth a hundred in the fen. (English) . 

A small benefit obtained is better than a great one in ex- 
pectation. (Latin). 

A sparrow in the hand is better than a bustard on the wing. 

A sparrow in the hand is better than a crane in the air* 

A sparrow in the hand is better than a hawk in the air. 

A sparrow in the hand is better than a peacock in expecta- 
tion. (Persian). 

A sparrow in the hand is better than a pigeon on the roof. 

A sparrow in the hand is better than a pigeon on the wing. 

A sparrow in the hand is worth a pheasant that flieth by. 
(Latin, English). 

A sparrow in the hand is worth more then a goose flying 
in the air. (French). 



A Bird in the Hand 43 

A trout in the pot is better than a salmon in the pool. 

A thousand cranes in the air are not worth one sparrow in 

the fist. (Egyptian, Arabian). 
A titmouse in hand is better than a duck in the air 

A titmouse in the hand is better than a crane in the air. 

A worm in my hand is better than a crane in the air. 

A wren in the hand is better than a crane to be caught. 

A yoimg pumpkin now is better than a full grown one later 

on. (Ancient Hebrew). 
Better a bird in the hand than four — or ten — in the air. 

(Latin, Ashanti, Dutch). 
Better a finch in the hand than a parrot in the Indies. 

Better a fowl in the hand than two flying. (English, 

Better a lean lintie in the hand than the fat finch on the 

wand. (Scotch). 
Better a leveret in the kitchen than a wild boar in the 

forest. (Levonian). 
Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow. (Italian, 

Modem Greek), 
Better an egg today than a pullet tomorrow. (Italian). 
Better a sparrow in hand than a falcon in the forest. 

Better a sparrow in hand than a vulttire on the wing. 

(Latin, Spanish). 
Better a wren in the hand than a crane in the air. (French). 
Better is a wren in yoiu: fist — that is your property — than a 

crane — or heron — on loan. (Irish-Ulster). 
Better one bird tied up than a himdred flying. (Hebrew). 
Do not part with your ready money for future profit. 


44 Proverbs Annotated 

Eggs now are better than chickens tomorrow. (Latin). 
Even the bush which is near is preferable to a relation who 

lives at a distance. (Singalese). 
Even the crow flesh that is to be had near is better than the 

peacock flesh that is far off. (Singalese). 
Give me wool today and take sheep tomorrow. (Arabian). 
Hoping for something still in the womb, while abandoning 

that which is in the lap. (Assamese). 
I'd rather have balaow — horn fish — today than tazard — 

a kind of mackerel — tomorrow. (Martinique Creole) . 
It is better to half ane brade in hand nor twa in the wood 

fleande. (Scotch). 
Lmigs at hand are better than a sheep's tail in expectation. 

Near us we have the puthi and khaliana, the ro and barali 

are far away — It is better to catch small fish that are 

near than to let the mind dwell on large and fine fish 

that are distant. (Assamese). 
Oat bread today is better than cake tomorrow. (Serbian). 
One bird in the dish is better than a hundred in the air. 

One bird in the hand is better than four outside it. (Latin). 
One bird in the hand is worth ten in the sky. (Belgian). 
One bird in the hand is worth two on the roof. (Dutch, 

One bird in the net is better than a himdred — or thousand 

• — flying. (Hebrew). 
One bird in your hand is better than ten birds in the sky. 

One " here it is, " is better than two " you will get." 

One " take this " is better than two " will give." (French, 

One hour today is worth two tomorrow. (Latin) . 
One quill is better in hand than geese upon the strand. 


A Bird in the Hand 45 

Sheeps trotters in the hand are better than a leg of mutton 

a year hence. (Bannu) . 
The flow of cash is better than the sweetmeats of credit. 

(Persian) . 
The egg of today is better than the goose of tomorrow. 

Today's fowl is better than tomorrow's goose. (Osmanli) , 
Why let the bird in hand go and snare one in the jungle? 



A clear loss rather than a profit of distant expectation. 

A friend at hand is better than a relative at a distance. 

(Japanese) . 
A palm oif the hand never deceives me. (African, Youba). 
Better good afar off than evil at hand. (English). 
Forty birds that are in the mountain are worth one farthing. 

God send you readier meat than running hares. (English). 
He left the half and did not overtake the whole. (Hindu- 
He that leaves certainty and sticks to chance, when fools 

pipe, he may dance. (Latin, English). 
The moon is with thee, thou needest not to care about the 

stars. (Arabian). 
Tm like the piper's cow, gie me a pickle pea-stae and sell 

yoiu" wind for siller — said to a promiser or boaster. 

It's a rash bargain to sell the bird on the bough. (Italian). 
I will not change a cottage in possession for a kingdom in 

reversion. (Latin, English). 
Like a leaping leech. (Telugu). 
Milk the cow you have caught, what's the good of following 

the rimaway. (Latin). 
Sour milk which has been tried is better than untried 

curds. (Syriac). 

46 Proverbs Annotated 

The fish binny said, " If thou canst find a better than 
myself do not eat me " — the binny fish is regarded as 
one of the best tasting fishes that are to be caught in 
the Nile. (Arabian). 

The sheep says they too get the child, but the shaking 
sickness is what takes it. (Ibo-Nigeria). 

They don't sell the duiker walking in the bush. (Ibo- 

This is better than the thing we never had. (Irish) . 


(/ Better be a bird in the wood than one (or ten) in the cage. 
^ Better be a free bird than a captive king. (Danish). 

It is a old sayin' dat one bird in de han* is wuth two in de 
'^^.-j,^ bush. 
5^^ V It may be wuth more ter de man, but it ain't wuth half as 
much ter de bird. (Negro Plantation Proverb). 
The figs on the other side of the hedge are sweeter. 


This old English proverb, or its equivalent, is 
found in all lands. Lafacadio Hearn heard it 
repeated by the Creoles of Louisiana in their 
Chatte brille pair di few, and David Livingston 
met with it among the Bechuanas who said of 
those who received injury from some foolish act, ^ /j . 
** You will not go into those coals a second time." ^ ^i^^^ 

The saying is lengthened in Denmark by /2>^ 
adding "and a bitten child a dog." 

A child's book of the eighteenth century en- 
titled Proverbs Exemplified illustrated the phrase 
by a picture of two boys, one standing near a 
beehive from which he had sought to take 
honey. He is represented as lifting his foot 
and sucking his thumb in agony, because of 
the stings that he had received. The other 
boy is shown running away from the place of 

While the proverb is intended to indicate that 
"Experience is the best teacher" its English 
form states that the burnt child dreads the fire, 
which is not always true. 

The old Romans expressed the same thought 
in their saying, "A fisherman once stung will be 

48 Proverbs Annotated 

wiser," which is believed by some to have been 
the original form of the proverb. If this were 
true the Romans probably borrowed it from the 
inhabitants of some seacoast district where it 
was used in referring to over-anxious fishermen 
who in seeking to ascertain the contents of their 
nets were stung by scorpions or by fish with 
sharp finned backs. 

"A dog was lying in the sun before a farmyard 
gate when a wolf pounced upon him and was 
just going to eat him up but he begged for his 
life and said, ' You see how thin I am and what a 
wretched meal I should make you now; but if 
you will only wait a few days my master is 
going to give a feast. All the rich scraps and 
pickings will fall to me and I shall get nice and 
fat; then will be the time for you to eat me.' 
The wolf thought this was a very good plan and 
went away. Some time afterward he came to 
the farmyard again and found the dog lying out 
of reach on the stable roof. 'Come down,* he 
called, ' and be eaten : You remember our agree- 
ment.' But the dog said coolly, 'My friend, if 
ever you catch me lying down by the gate 
there again don't you wait for any feast.'" — 
^sop, died about B.C. 561 V. S. Vernon Jones 

Another of ^Esop's fables tells us that a cer- 
tain house was infested by mice and that the 
occupants, being greatly annoyed by their 

A Burnt Child Dreads the Fire 49 

presence, secured a cat that caught some of them 
every day. The mice, finding their number 
rapidly decreasing, consulted with each other as 
to the best method of protecting themselves 
against their enemy a«nd decided to remain on 
the upper shelf where they could not be reached. 
The hungry cat noticing that the mice did not 
run about on the floor as usual, sought to out- 
wit them by strategy; so she laid hold of a peg 
with her hind feet and hung against the wall as 
though she were dead. She had not remained 
long in that position when a cunning mouse 
looked over the edge of the upper shelf and said : 
"So you are there, are you, my good friend? 
There you may stay. I would not come down 
on the floor though I saw your skin stuffed with 
straw." J 

"The fish which has once felt the hook ty^ 
suspects the crooked metal in every food 
which offers." — PuBLius OviDUS Naso, b.c. 43- 
A.D. 17. ^^ / 

"He that has been shipwrecked shudders at 
still water." — Publius Ovidus Naso. 



" So soon upon supper, said he, no question ^ ^ Jfj^ 

Sleep maketh ill and unwholesome digestion: 
By that diet a great disease once I gat 
And burnt child fire dreadeth ; I will beware of that. " 
John Heywood, a.d. i 497-1 580, A Dialogue. 

''Gloucester: Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind; 
The thief doth fear each bush an officer. 

50 Proverbs Annotated 

King Henry: The bird that hath been limed in a bush, 

With trembling wings misdoubteth every 

And I, the hapless male to one sweet bird, 
Had now the fatal object in my eye. 
Where my poor young was limed, was 
caught and kill'd. " 
William Shakespeare, a.d. i 497-1 580, King 
Henry VI, PL III. 

"What, wouldst thou have a serpent sting thee twice?" 
William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice. 

"He who has suffered shipwreck fears to sail 

Upon the seas, though with a gentle gale. " 

Robert Herrick, a.d. i 591-1674, Hesperides: Shipwreck. 

" *Tis certain, Ulysses had no great kindness 
for the sea, after he had been dangerously toss'd 
in it by storms and tempests for the space of ten 
years, or upwards before he could arrive at the 
haven of his own wishes, and land safe in his own 
native country; for no doubt he would have 
dreaded the thought of renewing those terrible 
hazards and repeating that perilous voyage 
over again, as much as ever he rejoiced at his 
own safety upon an unexpected deliverance 
from the fury of a merciless ocean." — Oswald 
Dykes, a.d. 1707, Moral Reflections. 

" Not seldom will there be an evident superior- 
ity of a proverb in one language over one, which, 
however, resembles it closely, in another. 
Moving in the same sphere, it will yet be richer, 
fuller, deeper. Thus our own, A burnt child 
fears the fire, is good; but that of many tongues, 

A Burnt Child Dreads the Fire 51 

A scalded dog fears cold watery is better still. 
Ours does but express that those who have suf- 
fered once will henceforward be timid in respect 
of that same thing from which they have suf- 
fered ; but that other the tendency to exaggerate 
such fears, so that now they shall fear even where 
no fear is. And the fact that so it will be, 
clothes itself in an almost infinite variety of 
forms." — Richard Chenevix Trench, a.d. 
1 807-1 886, Proverbs and Their Lessons. 

"We are all like burnt children. We have all 
suffered more or less by our ignorance, our wilful- 
ness or our folly, in tampering and meddling 
with that which we should have left alone. We 
are all (begging our several pardons) like scalded 
urchins; running continually into mischief, 
smarting from the consequences, and then howl- 
ing or growling at what we are pleased to term 
our misfortunes." — ^Jefferys Taylor, a.d. 1827, 
Old English Sayings. 

**If those are wise who learn caution from 
their own experience, those are wiser still who 
learn it from the experience of others. If the 
burnt child dreads the fire, it is well; but if the 
unburnt child dreads it, it is better; for he has 
obtained the benefit of experience without the 
expense of it." — Jefferys Taylor, Old English 


A beaten dog is afraid of the stick's shadow. (Italian). 
A beaten soldier fears a reed. (Japanese). 

52 Proverbs Annotated 

A bitten child dreads a dog. (English). 

A burnt cat dreads the fire. (Louisiana Creole). 

A burnt cat shuns the fireplace. (Tamil). 

A burnt child dreads the fire and a bitten child dreads a 

dog. (Danish). 
A crane, frightened at the roar of thtmder, fears even a 

jackal's howl — cranes are said to fall on the ground 

when they hear thunder. (Pashto). 
A dog once struck with a firebrand dreads even the sight 

of lightning. ( B ehar) . 
A dog that has been beaten by a stick is afraid of its 

shadow. (English). 
A fisherman once stimg will be wiser. (Latin). 
A man once struck with a firebrand rims away on seeing a 

glow worm. (Bengalese). 
A man who has once been bitten by a snake is afraid of 

every piece of rope. (Assamese, Japanese). 
A scalded cat dreads cold water. (English, Scotch, 

French, Spanish, Portuguese, Malay, Behar). 
A scalded dog fears cold water. (English). 
A snake bite you, an' you see a lizar (lizard), you mus* run. 

(British Guiana). 
Burnt bairns dread the fire. (Scotch). 
Having burnt his mouth with milk he now blows even on 

buttermilk before drinking it. (Marathi). 
He that has been bitten by a serpent fears a rope. 

(Hebrew, Hindoo, Assamese, English, Persian). 
He that has been scalded with milk blows when he drinks 

buttermilk. (Persian, Hindustani, Behar, Kumaun, 

He that is bitten by a snake is terrified by a cord. 

He who has been bitten by a serpent is afraid of an eel. 

(English, Danish). 
He who has been bitten by a serpent is afraid of a lizard. 

(Italian, Serbian). 

A Burnt Child Dreads the Fire 53 

He who has been burnt by the hot blows even upon the 

cold. (Modem Greek). 
He who has been kicked by a bear fears the sight of one 

who sells cucumbers. (Tamil). 
He who has been stimg by a scorpion is afraid of its 

shadow. (Spanish). 
He who has once burnt his mouth always blows his soup. 

(English, German). 
He who has seen a black serpent is afraid of a black stick. 

He whom a serpent has bitten dreads a slow worm — The 

slow, or blind) worm of West Africa is a harmless 

reptile. (Oji-West Africa). 
Once bitten by a snake fears a rope. (Marathi, Assamese) . 
Once bitten, twice shy. (English). 

Singed by lightning he rims from a burning stick. (Hin- 
The animal escapes the trap and stands in dread of a bent 

stick. (Efit, West Africa). 
The cow that has been burnt out of its shed sees the even- 
ing sky red (with the setting sun) and trembles. 

The horse that is struck in the head will be full of fear — ^he 

will expect a blow when none was intended and start 

when his owner moves. (Gaelic). 
The man who has been beaten by a firebrand runs away 

at the sight of a firefly. (Cingalese). 
When a cat has been once bm-ned by the fire it is even 

afraid of cinders. (Mauritius Creole). 
Who has burnt himself with hot food blows at cold. 



A blind man loses his staff only once. (Hindustani). 

A dog steals a leg (of mutton) from the butcher*s shop, but 
he cuts off his own leg — i.e. He will not be allowed 
to go to the butcher's shop again. (Syriac). 

54 Proverbs Annotated 

A fox is not caught twice in a snare. (Greek). 
A man deceives a man only once. (Osmanli). 
JA scalded dog thinks cold water hot. (Italian). 
After mischance everyone is wise. (French). 
Boys avoid the bees that stimg 'em. (English) 
By falling we learn to go safely. (Dutch). 
Do not show a man that is hanged, a rope ; nor a burnt man 

fire. (Syrian). 
Experience keeps a dear school, but fools learn in no other. 

Experience is the best teacher. (English). 
Experience is the great baflfler of speculation. (English). 
Experience makes fools wise. (English). 
Experience purchased by suffering teaches wisdom. 

Experience teaches fools and he is a great one that will not 

learn by it. (English). 
Having had experience he fears it. (Latin). 
He knows the water best who has walked through it. 

He remembers the burning cf his finger. (Gaelic). 
He starts at sight of a log whose relative was devoiu-ed by 

a crocodile. (Bengali). 
He who has been biu-ned fears. (Latin, English). 
He who has been hurt fears. (Latin). 
He who has crossed the ford knows how deep it is. 

He who has led a wicked life is afraid of his own memory. 

He who is a man does not make a mistake twice. 

He who is deceived once is (not) deceived again. (Os- 
He whose father was killed by a bear is afraid of a black 

stump. (Hindi). 
If a snake bite you an' you see lizar you mus' run. (British 


A Burnt Child Dreads the Fire 55 

If the timid sees a glow worm he shouts : Fire ! (Armenian). 
Is the weaver so mad that he will again steal wool? (Kash- 
It is shameful to sttmible twice against the same stone. 

None know the danger of the fire more than he who falls 

into it. (English). 
The fish which has once felt the hook suspects the crooked 

metal in every food which offers. (Latin). 
The fisherman when stung will learn wisdom. (Latin, 

The leaf cracked and you have fled. (Hindi). 
Trembling at a bit of rope thinking it to be a snake. 

Will the woman with a shaved head go imder the bel tree? 

— The answer being, No ! as the fruit of the bel tree 

is a wood apple that is believed by the natives to be 

attracted by bald heads. (Behar). 
You will not go into those coals a second time. (Bechuana, 

South Africa). 


102, 341 




The resemblance of children to their parents 
has been observed for untold ages and has been 
expressed in many phrases. Among primitive 
races various rites and ceremonies are performed 
by the parents before and after the birth of a 
child to cause it have commendable traits of 
character. It is believed that by such rites and 
ceremonies the father and mother are able to 
communicate their virtues to their offspring. 

The three proverbs indicate that the child bears 
a physical resemblance to one or both of its 
parents or that his way of thinking, speaking or 
acting is similar to theirs. They do not indicate 
that a child may not be inferior or superior in 
physical strength, intellectual power or business 
acumen. Brewer reminds us that in English 
history King John was the son of Henry II, 
Edward II was the son of Edward I, Richard II 
was the son of the Black Prince, Henry VI was 
the son of Henry V and Lord Chesterfield's son 
was a disappointment to his father; that in 
French history Louis VIII was the son of 

A Chip of the Old Block 57 

'Philippe Auguste, Charles the Idiot was the son of 
Charles le Sage and that Henry II was the son of 
FranQois I ; and that in German history Heinrich 
VI was the son of Barbarossa; and that Albrecht 
I was the son of Rudolf. 

If it is true that a father of great talents has a 
son who has less ability, it may also be said to be 
true that that son probably had a grandfather 
inferior to his son. 

The phrase, "A chip of the old block " has been 
in common use for many centuries. Edmund 
Burke said of William Pitt that he was not merely 
a chip of the old block, but the old block itself. 

Twenty-five hundred years ago Ezekiel, 
Prophet of Israel, declared that "As is the 
mother, so is her daughter" (Ezek. 16:44) this 
was a common proverb. That being the case 
its corresponding saying, "As is the father, so 
is his son " must also have been well known in 
his day. 

Bible References: I Sam. 24:13; Isa. 24:2; 
Ezek. 18:2. 

"An old crab said to her son, 'Why do you 
walk sideways like that, my son? You ought to 
walk straight.* The young crab replied : 'Show 
me how, dear mother, and I'll follow your ex- 
ample.' The old crab tried, but tried in vain, 
and then saw how foolish she had been to find 
fault with her child." — ^EsoP, B.C. 561, V. S. 
Vernon Jones' translation. 

58 Proverbs Annotated 

"Falsehood her father is with fickle tongue 
That since he came to earth, never said sooth, 
And Meed is mannered after him, as nature will 
Like father, like son : Every good tree maketh 
good fruit." 

William Langland, a.d. i 300-1 400. 

** Gloucester: No doubt, no doubt: O 'tis a parlous boy; 
Bold, quick, ingenious, forward, capable: 
He is all the mother's from top to toe. " 

William Shakespeare, a.d. 1564-16 16, King Richard III. 

' ' Paulina : It is yours ; 

And might we lay the old proverb to your 

So like you, 'tis the worse. Behold, my lords. 
Although the print be little, the whole matter 
And copy of the father, eye, nose, lip ; 
The trick of's frown; his forehead; nay, the 

The pretty dimples of his chin and cheek; his 

The very mould and frame of hand, nail, 

finger. " 

William Shakespeare, Winter's Tale. 

" Constance: Thou monstrous injurer of heaven and earth! 
Call not me slanderer; thou and thine usurp 
The dominations, royalties and rights 
Of this oppressed boy; this is thy eld'st son's 

Unfortunate in nothing but in thee: 
Thy sins are visited in this poor child ; 
The canon of the law is laid on him, 
Being but the second generation 
Removed from thy sin — conceived womb." 
William Shakespeare, King John. 

A Chip of the Old Block 59 

"Treason is but trusted like the fox, 
Who, ne'er so tame, so cherish'd and lock'd up. 
Will have a wild trick of his ancestors. " 
William Shakespeare, King Henry IV., PL I. 

"Impossible suppositions produce impossible 
consequences, * As is the mother, so is the daugh- 
ter.' Therefore surely God's Holy Spirit would 
not suppose such a thing but what was feasible 
and possible, but what either had, did, or might 
come to pass." — Thomas Fuller, a.d. 1608- 


A branch brings forth a fig. (Ancient Hebrew). 

A chip of the old block, like the seed of the trooper , if he is 

not up to very much, still he is above the average. 

A lion's whelp resembles its sire, but tell me in what 

respect do you resemble a prophet? (Persian). 
A monkey's young ones. (Kashmiri). 
As the father so the son. (Sanskrit, Telugu, Kumaun, 

As flour so the gruel. (Tamil). 
As the nest so the bird, as the father so the child. 

As the old cock crows so the young bird chirrups. 

As the old bird sings so the young ones twitter. (German, 

As the potter so the pitcher and as the father so the son, 

Even in animals there exists the spirit of their sires. 

Even the child of a thief is characterized by thievish pro- 
pensities. (Tamil). 

6o Proverbs Annotated 

Foxes sons of foxes. (Hebrew). 

He has of his father — i.e. He is like his father. (Russian.) 

He is a child of his father. (Modern Greek). 

He is a lion the son of a lion. (Hebrew). 

He is cut out of his father's eyes — i.e. He is like his 

father. (Frisian). 
^^He is his father's son. (Telugu, Latin). 
/ He is the son of his father? (Latin, English) . 

If the father is a fisherman the children look into the water. 

Is he not the son of that father? (Telugu) . 
My father was a thief, I am of the same nature. (Assa- 
Such a father such a son. (English, Portuguese, Telugu). 
Such as his — referring to his likeness to his father. (Ku- 

maun, Garhwal). 
The big dog's nature will be in the pup. (Gaelic). 
The brave are bom from the brave and good. (Latin). 
The child for whom the father dances Ufie dances Agidi. 

The father is known from the child. (German). 
The fish is rotten from the head — i.e. The child partakes 

of the nature of its parents. (Persian). 
The old one sings, the young ones pipe. (Dutch). 
The rope dancer's son is always turning summersaults. 

The son of a brave is brave. (Osmanli). 
The son of a tailor will sew as long as he lives. (Behar). 
The son of a tyrant will be a t3rrant as the sword when 

broken becomes a dagger, (Persian). 
The son of a wolf will be a wolf even if it grows up with 

man. (Osmanli). 
The son of Hyn is a Jinn — i.e. a bad man. (Osmanli). 
The son resembles his father and the colt his sire, if not 

exactly so, yet in a certain degree. (Hindustani). 
The young ravens are beaked like the old. (Dutch, 


A Chip of the Old Block 6i 

Thou art thy father's own son. (English) . 
Vessels of the same kiln. (Hindustani) . 
Weights of the same bag. (Kumaun, Garhwal). 


As is the mother such is the child ; as is the yam such is the 

cloth. (Tamil). 
As mother so daughter; as the mill so the flour. (Pashto). 
Bad crow, bad egg. (Greek, Sanskrit). 
Durag's stick (i.e. according to her height) and as mother 

so daughter. (Kashmiri). 
Ewe followeth ewe, as the acts of the mother so are the 

acts of the daughter. (Hebrew). 
From the sow comes but a little pig. (Gaelic). / , 

Gusie sow, gudely calf . (Scotch). I t iS ^^^^^'^ 

>.-^ike crow, like egg. (English). ,^ ' 

Mother a witch, daughter also a witch. (German). 
Pull a girl by her sleeve she always resembles her mother 
— i.e. try to pull or influence a girl to be like someone 
else , she will still be like her mother. (Arabian) . 
See the mother comprehend the daughter. (Pashto). 
She hath a mark after her mother. (English, Telugu). 
She's her mother over again. ((Scotch, English). 
That which is the mother's is the daughter's. 

This proverb is used to refer not only to the daugh- 
ter's property but also to her disposition and 
habits. (Tamil). 
The leaf that the big goat eats the kid eats. (Ibo). 
The skein corresponds with the thread and the daughter 

resembles her mother. (Hindustani). 
The yoimg ones of the duck are swimmers. (Arabian). 
The young pig grunts like the old sow. (English). 
Turn the jar on its mouth and the daughter will come up 
like her mother. 

The Syrian water jar is shaped so that whether it 
stands on its base or on its mouth it looks about 
the same. (Syrian.) 

62 Proverbs Annotated 


A branch bringing forth a fig. (Hebrew). 

A calf takes after its mother and a foal its sire, if not in ail 

points still in a few. (Behar). 
A child is a child though the son of a prophet. (Persian). 
A herb grows according to its root. (Syriac). 
Arrows from one quiver. (Hindustani). 
As the auld cock crawd the young cock learns. (Scotch, 

As the seed so the sprout. (Sanskrit). 
As the teacher so will the scholar be. (Kashmiri). 
As the king such are his subjects. (Tamil). 
At last the wolf's cub becomes a wolf. (Pashto). 
A wild goose never laid a tame egg. (Irish). 
Before taking a woman in marriage ascertain the character 

of her mother; before buying a cow ascertain the 

quality of its milk. (Tamil). 
Being bom a tiger will it become a cat? (Tamil). 
Being bom a tiger will it be without claws? (Tamil). 
Big and small baskets and fans are made of the same 

bamboo. (Kumaun, Garhwal). 
By the child one sees what sort of a man his father is. 

Choose cloth by its edge ; a wife by her mother. (Persian) . 
He is not the son of that father. (Telugu). 
He that is bom of a hen must scrape for a living. (English, 

He who takes his lineage from the ground himself becomes 

ox-tender — i.e. He who is low born must engage in 

some lowly occupation. (Osmanli). 
If you put sour milk into a leathem bag, for one hundred 

years, it will still be sour milk — i.e. as sour milk will 

remain sour milk, so bad blood will remain bad blood 

through successive generations. (Persian). 
If you wish to know a prince look at his ministers ; if you 

wish to understand the man himself look at his 

A Chip of the Old Block 63 

parents, but if you wish to know a father observe his 
son. (Chinese). 
It is " pan " from the same tree, how will it be different? 

(Assamese) . 
Let it be torn, let it be broken; it is still a scarf of fine silk; 
let him be young, let him be old ; he is still the son of 
Bhuiya (n). 

The silk referred to in this proverb is of a fine quality 
and obtained from the cocoons of mulberry fed 
worms. The scarf that is made of this silk is 
often beautifully embroidered with red and some- 
times with gold threads. Being a son of Bhuiya 
(n) is an honor because of their position as land- 
holders and their relation to the government. 
Like priest like people. (English). 

Look at the mother before affiancing the daughter. (Ser- ^ — y 
bian, Tamil). \J^ 

Look at the mother take the daughter. (Osmanli). -^ Y) J*^^_. 
Nature will out. (English). ' ' 'AjJ^-^ 

Observe the edge and take the linen; observe the mother 

and take the daughter. (Turkish). 
Plant a mango and eat a mango ; plant a tamarind and eat a 

tamarind. (Hindustani). 
That which does not resemble its master is spurious. 

The branch of a rose wherever it grows is always a rose. 

The calf is like the cow and the colt is like its father — if 
not entirely yet certainly in some degree. (Hindus- 
The child had a rid tongue like its father. (English). 
The comparison of a gray goose to his mother. (Gaelic). 
The daughter of a bad cow, the grandchild of a good one. 

The daughter of a crab does not give birth to a bird. 
(Chinese, Oji). 

64 Proverbs Annotated 

The devilis like his dam. (English). 

Dam in this proverb refers to a mother, though the 
word is sometimes applied in old literature to a 

The devil is the father of lies. See John 8:44 (English). 

The devil's child the devil's luck. (English) . 

The donkey colt by force of growing becomes a donkey. 
This proverb is generally applied to one who ex- 
aggerates in telling a story. 

The faults of a mother are visited on her children. (Tamil). 

The future crop is known in the grain. (Tamil). 

The hen scratches and the chickens learn. (Kashmiri). 

The mother a radish, the father an onion and the son a 
saffron flower — i.e. The son of a worthless father 
and mother will be worthless. (Panjabi). 

The mother was an innkeeper and the son is Fatteh Khan 
— i.e. The mother is of a common grade and her son 
puts on the airs of a conqueror though he himself is 
common. (Panjabi). 

The muddy f oimtain spurts forth muddy water. (English) . 

The rose from rose is born, the thorn from thorn. (Pashto). 

The serpent brings forth nothing but little serpents. 

The spawn of frogs will become frogs. (Japanese). 

The thieving dog's pup may not be a thief yet, but he will 
sniff about — i.e. The thieving dog's pup may not be 
an actual thief but he will have a thieving propensity. 

They are all loaves of one batch or cakes of the same 
griddle, whether small or great — i.e. They are all of 
the same descent or family. (Hindustani). 

They are seeds out of the same bowl. (Telugu) . 

The young of a cuckoo will be a cuckoo and cause the crow 
grief and disappointment — i.e. will put ashes on the 
face, that being the common sign of mourning and 
distress of mind in the East. 


A Chip of the Old Block 65 

The meaning is that a cuckoo will be a cuckoo even 
though brought up by a crow foster-mother. 
The young of a snake is a snake and its young one is a 

scorpion. (Tamil). ^ t 

What is bred in bone won*t out of the flesh. (English)." ^ ^ 
We may not expect a good whelp from a bad dog. (Hebrew). 
Whence is this twig? From this shrub. — i.e. Bad child- 
ren spring from bad parents, and good children from 
good parents. (Modem Greek). 
Who shall teach young fish to swim? (Hindustani). 
Will a plant differ from the seed? (Telugu) . 
Will a child — daughter— fail to follow its mother's track? 


A beggar's son struts like a peer. (Hindustani). 

A diligent mother has a lazy daughter. (German). 

A dog had a young one which grew worse than his father. 

A light heeled mother makes a heavy heeled daughter. 

A slatting cow has often had a good calf. (English). 

A son like the mother, and the daughter like the father. 

Diligent mother, idle daughter. (Portuguese). 

From good parents a black calamity was bom. (Pashto). 

From the thorn bush comes the rose. (Hebrew). 

He died as a dog and freed us of service, but he left a 
whelp behind that was worse than his father. (Hindu- 
stani) . 

Many a good cow hath but a bad calf. (English). 

Many a good father has a bad son. (English). 

Parched maize is the excellent offspring of millet — i.e. 
A good child of worthless parents. (Hindustani). 

66 Proverbs Annotated 

Parents who have no equals rear children unlike them- 
selves — i.e. Good parents rear children unlike 
themselves. (Hebrew). 
The active mother makes the lazy daughter. (Gaelic). 
The father, a petty merchant, the son a lord. 

This proverb is used contemptuously in speaking 
of an upstart. (Hindustani). 
The father wore a mallet about his neck, the son a precious 

necklace. (Hindustani). 
The wise man is father of the fool. (West African). 
What does the beetle beget? Insects worse than itself. 
Sometimes this proverb is quoted: "What does 
the scorpion beget? Insects worse than itself." 
You are no son like the father. (Gaelic). 
You'll never fill your father's shoes. (English). 

r ,.,/\^ 36,99. 155,302 


Friendship shows itself by love and ministry. 

The origin of this proverb is unknown but as 
its thought has been expressed by a multitude of 
writers in olden times we may well believe that 
it has been known and used for more than two 
thousand years. Plautus, the Roman drama- 
tist, two hundred years before the coming of 
Christ, declared that "Nothing is more friendly 
to a man than a friend in need," which is but 
another form of the proverb. 

The saying, ** He that's no my friend at a pinch 
is no my friend at a"* is another form of the 
phrase, "He that's no my friend at a pinch is 
not worth snuff," or as we would say "a pinch 
of snuff," which expresses in a quaint way the 
thought that the test of friendship is helpfulness 
in time of need. When the Telugus ask for 
proof of friendship they say, "Would you com- 
fort me or remove my grief, or if necessary would 
you plunge?" That is, plunge in the water to 
save me were I in peril of drowning. This 
understanding of the proverb is in accord with 
the universal conception of true friendship. 

68 Proverbs Annotated 

"Just as the yellow gold is tested in the fire," 
said the Roman poet Ovid, "So is friendship to 
"^ be proved in an evil time.'* 

"I praise you when you regard the trouble of 
your friend as your own." — Plautus, b.c. 254- 

**A true friend is distinguished in the crisis 

of hazard and necessity, when the gallantry 

of his aid may show the worth of his soul 

/^ and the loyalty of his heart." — Ennius, b.c. 


"The swallows are at hand in summer time, 
but in cold weather they are driven away — so 
false friends are at hand in life's clear weather 
but as soon as they see the winter of misfortune 
they all fly away." — Cicero, b.c. 106-43. 
^ "Prosperity is no just scale, adversity is the 

-" only balance to weigh friends." — Plutarch, 
A.D., 46-120. 

"Some man is a friend for his own occasion 
^and will not abide in the day of wrath." — 
EccLus., 6: 8. 

"A friend cannot be known in prosperity and 
an enemy cannot be hid in adversity." — Ecclus., 

"Forget not thy friend in thy mind and be 
not unmindful of him in thy riches." — Ecclus., 

" Nother love levere, ne lever freonds 
Than after werre and wreck. " 

William Langland, a.d. 1330-1400, 

A Friend in Need 69 

"As hatred is the serpent's noisome rod, 
So friendship is the living gift of God: 
The drunken friend is friendship's very evil; 
The frantic friend is friendship for the devil; 
The quiet friend, all one in word and deed, 
Great comfort is, like ready gold, in need. 
Hast thou a friend the heart may wish at will? 
Then use him so, to have his friendship still. 
Would'st have a friend? Would'st know what friend is 

Have God thy friend, who passeth all the rest. " 

Thomas Tusser, a.d. 1524-1580. 

"He that is thy friend in deed 
He will help thee in thy need : 
If thou sorrow he will weep; 
If thou wake he cannot sleep ; 
Thus, of every grief in heart 
He with thee doth bear a part: 
These are certain signs to know, 
Faithful friend from flattering foe. ' 

Richard Barnfield, a.d. i 574-1 627. 

"By friendship you mean the greatest love, 
the greatest usefulness, the most open communi- 
cation, the noblest sufferings, the severest truth, 
the heartiest counsel and the greatest union of 
minds of which brave men and women are 
capable." — ^Jeremy Taylor, a.d. 1613-1667. 


A courageous is better than a cowardly friend. (English). 

A rat and a cat friendship. (Gugerat) . 

A rich friend is a treasure. (English). 

Friends are one soul in two bodies. (Turkish). 

Friends 'gree best at a distance. (Scotch). 

70 Proverbs Annotated 

Friendship consists not in saying: " What's the best news." 

Friendship is love with understanding. (Gennan) . 
Friends may meet, but motmtains never greet — i.e. 

Friends may agree but haughty people seldom do. 

LFriends tie their purses with cobweb threads. (Italian). 
Friendship with a fool is the embrace of a bear. (Persian) . 
The ass's friendship is kicking. (Afghan). 
The friend looks at the head; the enemy at the foot. 

There can be no friendship where there is no freedom. 

^ When friendship goes with love it must play second fiddle. 



A friend at court is worth a penny i' the purse. (Scotch). 
A friend at hand is better than relations at a distance. 

A man without a friend is a left hand without the right. 

A thousand friends are few, one foe many. (Turkish). 
A true friend is better than a relation. (Turkish). 
It is as bad to have too many friends as no friends at all. 

It is with the eye of others we see our own defects. 

I would rather have a dog my friend than enemy. 

One God no more, but friends a good store. (English). 
One enemy can harm you more than a hundred friends can 

do you good. (German). 
One enemy is too much for a man in a great post, and a 

hundred friends are too few. (English). 
One enemy can do more hurt than ten friends can do good. 


A Friend in Need 71 

Rather have a little one for your friend than a great one 

for your enemy. (Italian). 
There is no living without friends. (Portuguese). 
They are rich who have friends. (Latin, English, Spanish, 

True friends are of service to one in prison or (in distress), 

since at one's table even enemies appear friends. 

We can live without a brother, but not without a friend. 

We can live without our friends but not without our 

neighbors. (English). 
When friends meet hearts warm. (Scotch). 
Where friends, there riches. (German, Portuguese). 
Who has no friends only half lives. (German). — 
Without a clear mirror a woman cannot know the state of 

her face ; without a true friend a man cannot discern 

the nature of his actions. (Chinese). 


A broken friendship may be soldered but will never be 
sound. (English). 

A friend is to be taken with his faults. (Portuguese). 

A new pair of breeches will cast down an old coat — i.e. 
A new friend may take the place of an old one. 

A hedge between keeps friendship green. (German) . 

Can't I be your friend but I must be your fool too. (Eng- 

Friendships are cheap when they can be bought by drop- 
ping the hat. (Italian). 

Friendship is not to be bought at a fair. (English). 

Give out that you have many friends and believe that you 
have but few. (French) . 

Happy men should have many friends. (English). 

Have but few friends though much acquaintance. (Eng- 

72 Proverbs Annotated 

He that would have many friends should try a few of them. 

He who seeks to have many friends never has any. 

In poverty one learns to know his friends. (German). 
Let not one enemy be little in thy eyes nor a thousand 

friends be many in thy sight. (Hebrew). 
My friend's enemy is often my best friend. (German) 
Sudden friendship sure repentance. (English). 
Who makes friends of all keeps none. (German). 


A bad friend is like a smith, who, if he does not bum you 

with fire will injure you with smoke. (Arabian). 
A fool or unlearned is an enemy to himself, how is he a 

friend to others? (Arabian). 
A friend is best known in adversity. (English, Portuguese, 

Arabian, Turkish). 
A friend is never known till a man has need. (English, 

Scotch, French, Italian, Dutch). 
An untried friend is like an uncracked nut. (Russian). 
A sure friend is known in a doubtful matter. (Latin) . 
At marriages and ftmerals friends and kinsfolk are known. 

Before you make a friend eat a peck of salt with him. 

Better lose a jest than a friend. (English) . 
Fall sick and you will see who is your friend and who is 

not. (Spanish). 
Friends are like fiddle strings ; they must not be screwed 

too tight. (English). 
Good neighbors and true friends are two things. (English). 
He is not a friend who in the time of distress and help- 
lessness takes his friend by the hand. (Persian). 
He is a relation or friend who renders essential service. 


A Friend in Need 73 

He is my friend who succoreth me, not he that pitieth me. 

He is my friend who grinds at my mill — i.e. He is my 

friend who shows me a real kindness. (English, 

Spanish, Portuguese). 
4(r^e who has no enemy has no friend. (German). 
•—In poverty one learns to know his friends. (German). 
In times of prosperity friends will be plenty; in times of 

adversity not one in twenty. (English). 
- My friend is he who helps me in time of need. (German). 
One should fly a laughing enemy and a flattering friend. 

Prosperity gets followers but adversity distinguishes them. 

(English, French). 
Prove thy friends ere thou have need. (English). 
Three things are not known except in three points: courage 

except in war, the wise except in anger and a friend 

(except in adversity. (Arabian). 
Trust not the praise of a friend nor the contempt of an 
enemy. (Italian). 
Try yoiu: friends before you have need of them. (Scotch) . 
Try your friend ere you trust him. (English). 
Try your friend with a falsehood and if he keeps it a secret, 

tell him the truth. (Italian). 
Who woiild have many friends let him test but few. 


\ A dear bargain, a dear friend. (Italian). 
A friend's faults may be noticed but not blamed. (Danish) . 
A friend's faults should be known but not abhorred. 

Aft coimting keep friends lang thegither. (Scotch). 
By requiting one friend we invite many. (English). 
Even reckoning maketh long friends. (English). 
Fall out with a friend for a trifle. (English) . 
[ Friendship should be tmpicked not rent. (Italian). 


74 Proverbs Annotated 

He who is wanting but to one friend loseth a great many 
by it. (English). 

Is it right to forsake old friends in reliance on new ones? 

It is more disgraceful to suspect our friends than to be 
deceived by them. (French). 

It is no use hiding from a friend what is known to an 
enemy. (Danish). 

Keep your mouth and keep your friend. (Danish). 

Let our friends perish provided our enemies fall with them. 
He cannot be a true friend who permits those he calls 
friends to be sacrificed that he may seciu-e the down- 
fall of his enemies. (Latin, Greek). 

Make not thy friend too cheap to thee, nor thyself to thy 
friend. (English). 

Old friends and new reckonings. (French). 

Old friends and old ways ought not to be disdained. 

Old friends are not to be paid with gold. (German). 

To preserve a friend three things are necessary: To honor 
him present, praise him absent, and assist him in his 
necessities. (Italian). 

When a friend asks, there is no tomorrow. (Spanish). 

Friendship is a plant which one must often water. (Ger- 

Little presents maintain friendship. (French). 

One should sacrifice ever3rthing to friendship except honor 
and justice. (French). 

Patched up friendship seldom becomes whole again. 

Reconciled friendship is a wound ill salved. (Italian, 

To preserve friendship one must build walls. (Italian). 

Friendship canna stand aye on one side. (Scotch). 

Suffering for a friend doubles the friendship. (English). 

A Friend in Need 75 


A dissimilarity of pursuits dissolves friendship. (Latin). 
A fairweather friend changes with the wind. (Spanish, ' 

A false friend and a shadow attend only when the sun 

shines. (American). 
A false friend has honey in his mouth; gall in his heart. 

A false friend is worse than an open enemy. (English, 

A friend as far as conscience allows. (English). 
A friend is not so soon gotten as lost. (English). 
A friend is often best known by his loss. (German). 
A friend that you buy with presents will be bought from 

you. (English). 
A friend to everybody is a friend to nobody. (Spanish). 
A friend to my table and wine is no good neighbor. 

A fu' purse never lacks friends. (Scotch). 
All are not friends who speak one fair. (English). 
A lost friendship is an enemy won. (German). 
A plaster house, a horse at grass, a friend in words are all 

mere glass. (Dutch). 
A ready way to lose your friend is to lend him money. 

A reconciled friend is a double enemy. (English). 
Better an open enemy than a false friend. (Danish). 
Better a toom (empty) house than an ill tenant; better 

no friend than a false friend. (Scotch). 
Between friends a bug in the eye — i.e. In matters of 

trade do not trust a friend's honesty. (Spanish). 
Between two friends, a notary and two witnesses. 

Beware of a reconciled friend as of a devil. (Spanish). 
Everybody's companion is nobody's friend. (German). 
Everybody's friend and nobody's friend is all one. (Span- 
ish, Portuguese). 

76 Proverbs Annotated 

Everybody's friend is everybody's fool. (Dutch, German, 

Eye friend false friend ; eye friend back enemy. (German) . 
Friends and mules fail us at hard places. (Gallican). 
Friends are far from a man who is imfortimate. (Latin). 
Friends become foes and foes are reconciled. (Latin). 
Friends frae the teeth outwith — i.e. Insincere friends. 

Friends living far away are no friends. (Greek). 
God keep me from my friends, from my enemies I will 

keep myself. (Italian). 
God will remain, friends will not. (Afghan). 
Having wine and having meat one has many friends; 

in seasons of misfortune not one is to be fotmd. 

He is a friend at sneezing time, the most that can be got 

from him is a " God bless you." See Curiosities in 

Proverbs, p. 354. (English, Italian). 
He is no friend that eats his own by himself and mine with 

me. (Portuguese). 
He never was a friend who ceased to be so for a slight 

cause. (Portuguese). 
He never was a friend who has ceased to be one. (French) . 
He that trusts a faithless friend has a good witness against 

him. (Spanish). 
He who has a good nest finds good friends. (Portuguese). 
He who is everybody's friend is either very poor or very 

rich. (Spanish). 
I am on good terms with the friend who eats his bread with 

me. (Spanish). 
Let him who is wretched and beggared try everybody and 

then his friends. (Italian). 
Let us be friends, let our purses be variance. (Modem 

Many friends and few helpers in need. (German). 
Many himible servants but not one true friend. (English). 
Many kinsfolk and few friends. (English). 

A Friend in Need 77 

May God not prosper our friends that they forget tis. 

No friendship lives long that owes its rise to the pot. 

No longer foster, no longer dear man. (English). 
One seldom finds white ravens and true friends. 

Poverty parteth friends. (English). 
Pylades and Orestes died long ago and left no successors. 

Save me from my friends. (English). 
She devoted herself with every demonstration of affection, 

but when the time of need arrived made her retreat. 

So long as fortune sits at the table friends sit there. 

Table friendship soon changes. (English). 
Tell nothing to thy friend which thy enemy may not know. 

Tell your friend your secret and he*ll set his foot on your 

neck. (Italian, Spanish and Portuguese). 
The best friends often become the worst enemies. (Ger- 
The false friend is like the shadow of a sundial. (French). 
The friendship between fire and water. (Telugu) . 
The friendship of the base is a wall of sand. (Urdu). 
The friendship of the great is fraternity with lions. 

The friendship of a great man is like the shadow of a bush, 

soon gone. (French). 
The interested friend is a swallow on the roof — ^prepared 

to fly when winter weather comes. (French). 
There is no more hold of a new friend than of a new fashion. 

They cease to be friends who dwell afar off. (Latin). 
When good cheer is lacking our friends wUl be packing. 




78 Proverbs Annotated 

When my vine was laden with grapes my friends were 

many, when the grapes were finished my friends 

disappeared. (Arabian). 
When there are two friends to one purse, the one sings, the 

other weeps. (Spanish). 
Where shall a man have a worse friend than he brings 

from home. (English). 
While the pot boils friendship lasts. (Latin). 


A father is a treasm-er, a brother is a comfort, but a friend 

is both. (English). 
A friend at one's back is a safe bridge. (Dutch). 
A friend — even to the altar. (Latin). 
A friend in the market is better than money in the chest. 

A friend is better than money in the purse. (Dutch). 
A friend's dinner is soon dressed. (Dutch). 
A friend's frown is better than a foe's smile. (English). 
A good friend is better than silver and gold. (German, 

A good friend is my nearest relation. (English). 
A good friend never offends. (English). 
A man may see his friend need but winna see him bleed. 

An old friend is a motmt for a black day. (Osmanli). 
An old friend is better than two new ones. (German, 

A true friend is above all things sure capital. (German). 
^ true friend is better than a relation. (Turkish) . 
A true friend is known in the day of adversity. (Turkish). 
A true friend is the nectar of life. (Tamil). 
A true man is he who remembers his friend when he is 

absent, when he is in distress and when he dies. 

Avoid a friend who covers you with his wings and destroys 

you with his beak. (Spanish). 

A Friend in Need 79 

Better have a friend in the market place than money in 

your coffer. (Portuguese). 
Better have a friend on the road than gold or silver in your 

purse. (French). 
Familiar paths and old friends are the best. (German). 
Friendship, the older it grows the stronger it is. (English) . 
Here*s to our friends and hang up the rest of our kindred. 

He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare; 

he who has one enemy shall meet him somewhere. 

If ye wanted me and your meat, ye would want one gude 

friend. (Scotch). 
If you have one true friend you have one more than your 

share. (English). 
In distress will the faithfiil friend be seen. (Welsh). 
It is a good friend that is always giving, though it be ever 

so little. (English). 
Little intermittin* make gude friends. (Scotch). 
Many a man is a good friend but a bad neighbor. (Danish). , 
Old friends are not to be paid with gold. (German). .— ■"'V//* 
Quhen (when) welth abounds mony freends we nimiber. 

Quhen guidis (wealth) decay, then freends fly away. 

(Scotch). /I..-^UO 

The best looking glass is an old friend. (German). ""^ 6*-*'-' 
The enemy of my friend is often my best friend. (German) . 
The hireling is gained by money, a true friend by an ob- 
liging behaviour. (Chinese). 
To a friend's house the road is never long. (Danish). 
True love kyths (appears) in time of need. (Scotch). 
Who has true friends is rich. (German). - 


Things may not be what they seem. It is 
easy to be misled by appearances. Pyrites may 
be taken for gold and reputation for character. 
The Gibionites came to Joshua as travel-worn 
ambassadors from a distant land, deceitful 
workers of iniquity sought St. Paul's approval 
of their deeds and Satan assumes the guise of an 
angel of light. 

The proverb has been attributed to Shake- 
speare but it is much older than Shakespeare. 
It has also been said to have been first spoken by 
Alain de Lillie, a monk and celebrated scholar of 
the twelfth century. Whether Lillie was the 
first man to use it or not similar expressions were 
frequently quoted by the ancient Romans. 

See iEsop's Fables, The Crow and the Snake, 
and The Vain Jackdaw. 

"And when we be together every one, 
Every man seemeth a Salamon, 
But all things which that shineth as the gold, 
Is nought gold, as that I have herde told; 
Nor every appel that is fair at eye, 
Is always good, what so men clappe or crye 
Right so, lo, fareth it amonges us." 
Geoffery Chaucer, a.d. I340?-I400, Canterbury Tales. 

AU Is Not Gold That Gutters 8i 

"All that glisters is not gold; 
Often have you heard that told: 
Many a man his life hath sold 
But my outside to behold, 
Gilded tombs to worms infold. " 
William Shakespeare, a.d., 1564-1616, 

The Merchant of Venice. 

"Something shall shew like gold; at least shall glister" 
Beaumont and Fletcher, a.d. 1584-1616, 

The Pilgrim. 

" A man may wear the Saviour's hvery and yet 
be busied in Satan's drudgery. The skin of an 
apple may be fair when it is rotten at the core. 
Though all gold may glitter, yet all is not gold 
that glitters. The arrantest hypocrite may have 
the color of gold but not the value of gold. 
What comparison is there between the gilt tun 
filled with air and the homely vessel filled with 
generous wine." — William Secker, a.d. 1660, 
The Nonsuch Professor. 

"I was born in the year 1755, in the manor 
house of a sweet little country village, almost 
every cottage of which might be seen reflected 
in a small lake that spread itself over the valley 
beneath. I seem at this moment to see my Aunt 
Winifred as she used to stand, as sad as one of the 
willows which wept over the water, and, point- 
ing to the shadowy mansion beneath, to say, 
'Aye, child, all is not gold that glitters.*" — 
John W. Cunningham, a.d. i 780-1 861, Sancho. 

"Oh, that teacher! How she looms up in the 
far off sunny land of my childhood, like the great 

82 Proverbs Annotated 

mournful visaged impenetrable sphynx of the 
desert: and as it gazes toward the pyramids, so 
did she look on the world about her — to her it 
was the mighty tomb of a dead glory. Now I 
think of her with sadness; yet, can I scarcely 
forgive her for throwing that unnecessary damper 
over me when I exhibited to her the gold ring 
that had been sent me in a letter from a loving 
grandfather, hundreds of miles away. 'All is 
not gold that glitters' was the expression from 
her thin lips; so my pleasure was woefully di- 
luted. I looked with suspicion on the dear little 
circlet, and was not sorry when my finger out- 
grew it." — Louise V. Boyd, Arthur* s Magazine, 
April, 1873. 


All that glitters is not gold. (Tamil). 

All that's yellow is not gold and all white things are not 

eggs. (Gaelic). 
All white stones are not gems. (Singalese). 
A's no gowd that glitters, nor maidens that wear their hair. 
It was at one time the fashion in Scotland for 
maidens to go bareheaded. (Scotch). 
Think not all things gold which you see glittering. (Latin) . 


A devotee's face and a cat's claw. (Spanish). 

A fair face may hide a foul heart. (English). 

A good name covers theft. (German). 

A honeyed tongue and a heart of gall. (French). 

All are not crooks who wear long knives. (German, Dutch, 

All are not free who mock their chains. (German). 

AU Is Not Gold That Glitters 83 

All are not friends that speak us fair. (English). 

All are not friends who smile on you. (Dutch). 

All are not hunters who blow the horn. (English, French, /^"^ 
German, Danish). 

All are not merry that dance lightly. (English) . 

All are not saints that go to chiu*ch. (English, Italian). 

All are not soldiers that go to war. (English, Spanish, 

All saint without, all devil within. (English). 

A man is not always known by his looks, nor is the sea 
measiu-ed with a bushel. (Chinese). 

A mouth that prays, a hand that kills. (Arabian). 

An honest look covers many faults. (English). ^v*>i^ 

Appearances are deceitful. (German, English). -^^ /^C^^ 

Beauty is but dross if honesty be lost. (Dutch). X"^ o-'t^ 

Beauty is but skin deep. (English). ^ ' L-*-^ 

Beauty may have fair leaves, yet bitter fruit. (English) 

Be what you seem to be. (English). 

Big words seldom go with good deeds. (Danish). - -^ 

By candlelight a goat looks like a lady. (French). 

By lamplight every coimtry wench seems handsome. 


Everybody who wears spurs isn't a jockey. (Martinique 

Every glowworm is not fire. (German, Italian). 

Every grain is not a pearl. (Armenian) . 

Every light is not the sim. (English). 

Every crooked neck is not a camel. (Arabian). 

Externally a sheep, internally a wolf. (Modern Greek). 

Externally he is a saint but internally he is a devH. (Per- 

Fair hair may hae foul roots. (Scotch). 

False gold is very bright. (Telugu). 

Glow worms are not lanterns. (Italian). 

God in his tongue, a devil in his heart. (English). 

He has a Bible on his hps but not in his heart. (Dutch). 

He is a wolf in sheep's clothing. (English). 

84 Proverbs Annotated 

He shows honey — he mixed poison. (Modern Greek). 

He thinks his penny good silver. (English). 

If he is in the wilderness he is a robber; if he comes to the 

village he wishes to be a guru — i.e. A guru is a re- 
ligious teacher. (Badaga). 
It is not by saying " honey, honey " that sweetness comes 

into the mouth. (Turkish). 
Judge not of men or things at first sight. (English) . 
Like Hindu gods, externally sleek and shining dry glass 

within. (Bengal ese). 
Never judge by appearances. (English). 
Never trust to fine promises. (English). 
Not all those who have long knives are crooks. (Russian). 
Pleasant on the outside, dark and gloomy on the inside. 

Rosary in hand, the devil at heart. (Portuguese). 
Scented oil on the head ; the body so filthy as to drive away 

sleep. (Bengal ese). 
The cross on his breast and the devil in his heart. (Eng- 
The hypocrite has the look of an archbishop and the heart 

of a miller. (Modern Greek). 
The mouth of a Buddha, the heart of a snake. (Chinese). 
The mien of a bishop and the heart of a miller. (Modern 

There is no trusting to appearances. (Latin). 
Things are not what they seem. (Latin). 
To clothe a wolf in priest's clothes. (Japanese) . 
Truth's cloak is often lined with Ues. (Danish). 
To the jaundiced all things seem yellow. (French). 
Water under the grass. (Chinese) . 
When gold comes near to you it glitters — i.e. When you 

see gold you want it. (Oji- African). 
When you think there are flitches of bacon, there are not 

even hooks to hang them on. (Spanish). 
You cannot judge of the wine by the barrel. (English). 
You can't judge of the horse by the harness. (English) . 

AU Is Not Gold That Gutters 85 


A grave and majestic outside is as it were the palace of the 

soul. (Chinese). 
By the husk you may guess at the nut. (English). 
Common fame seldom lies. (Dutch). 
Fair feathers make fair fowls. (English). 
From one you may judge the whole. (Latin). 
No honest man has the leer of a rogue. (English). 
You may know a foolish woman by her finery. (French). 
You may know by a handful the whole sack. (English). 
You may know the horse by his harness. (English). 


A gold ring does not cure a felon. (English). 

A golden bit makes none the better horse. (German, 

A golden dart kills where it pleases. (English). 
A golden gallows is still but a gallows. (German). 
A golden hammer breaks an iron gate. (German). "^ 
A golden key opens every door. (Italian). '^ 

A golden key opens every door save that of heaven. 

A golden shield is of great defence. (English). 
A great load of gold is more burdensome than a light load 

of gravel. (English). 
A hare may draw a lion with a golden cord. (English). 
A hearth of your own is worth gold. (Danish). 
A lawyer without cimning, a peasant without manure, a 

merchant without gold remains poor. (German). 
A man may buy even gold too dear. (English). 
An ass covered with gold is more respected than a good 

horse with a pack saddle. (English). 
An ass is but an ass though laden with gold. (English). 
An ass loaded with gold climbs to the top of the castle. 

A spoken word is silver; an unspoken word gold. (Ger- 

86 Proverbs Annotated 

^i>-As the touchstone trieth gold, so gold trieth men. 
Beat a woman with a hammer and you'll make gold. 

This ignoble proverb is intended to teach that as a 
woman is a spendthrift, her subjection is necessary 
in order to save money. (Russian). 
Before gold even kings take off their hats. (German) 
.. Better a good friend than silver and gold. (German). 
Better gain in mind than lose in gold. (Italian, 

Better God than gold. (English). 
Better have a friend on the road than gold or silver in your 

purse. (French). 
Better whole than patched with gold. (Danish). 
Brandy is lead in the morning, silver at noon, gold at night. 

Chains of gold are stronger than chains of iron. (English) . 
Eloquence avails nothing against tiie voice of gold. (Latin) . 
Even gold may be bought too dear. (German). 
—Even with gold one cannot buy everything. (German). 
iJ^ Everything he touches turns to gold. 
» -^ An allusion to Midas the Phrygian. 

Fetters even of gold are heavy. (English). 
Fetters of gold are still fetters and silken cords pinch. 
/i ^^Freedom is above silver and gold. (German). 


^Qold and goods may be lost; a good name endures forever. 
"^ (German). 

Gold and silver do not make men better. (German). 
Gold and silver were mingled with dirt till avarice parted 

them. (English). 
Gold does not buy everything. (Italian). 
— Gold goes through all doors except heaven's door. 

(German) . 
^..^old goes in at any gate. (German). 

Gold goes to the Moor — i.e. Gold goes to the man with- 
out a conscience. (Portuguese). 

AU Is Not Gold That Gutters 87 

Gold is good though it be in a rogue's purse. (Danish). 

Gold is no balm to a wounded spirit. (English) . 

Gold is proved with fire ; friendship in need. (Danish). — ' 

Gold is the best mediator. (German). 

Gold is the right nail one must strike. (German). 

Gold is the snare of the soul. (German). 

Gold lies deep in the mountain; dirt on the highway. 

Gold must be beaten and a child scourged. (English). 
Gold remains gold though it lay in the mud. (German). 
Gold when present causeth fear; when absent grief. 

Golden bishop, wooden crosier; wooden bishop, golden 

crosier. (French). 
Golden dreams make men awake hungry. (English) . 
Good counsel is not to be paid with gold. (German). 
Hay is more acceptable to an ass than gold. (Latin). -^ ^. 
He has killed the goose that laid the golden egg. 

An allusion to ^sop's fable of The Goose that laid 
the Golden Egg. (English). 
He that labors and thrives spins gold. (English). 
He who would make a golden door must add a nail to it daily. 
Sometimes the word "gate" is used instead of 
"door" in quoting. (German, Dutch). 
If it were not for the belly the back might wear gold. 

If it were adamant gold would take the town. (English) . 
I hate fetters though they be of gold. (Portuguese). 
I will not have any gold but I love to reign over those who 

have. (Latin). 
Man must govern, not serve gold. (German). 
Nature furnishes genuine gold, but art makes false. 

No fence against gold. (English). 
Old women's gold is not ugly. (English). 
Parnassus has no gold mines in it. (English). 
Rich in gold, rich in care. (German). 

88 Proverbs Annotated 

So it goes in the world — one has the purse and the other 

the gold. (German). 
Speaking is silver, silence is gold. (Dutch). 
That is all well and good, but gold is better. (Danish). 
That is gold which is worth gold. (Italian, Spanish, Portu- 
guese, French). 
The ass loaded with gold still eats thistles. (German). 
The balance distinguishes not between gold and lead. 

The balance in doing its office knows neither gold or lead. 

The devil catches most souls with a golden net. (German) . 
The golden age was never the present age. (English). 
The golden ass passes everywhere. (Spanish). 
The golden covering does not make the ass a horse. 

^ The golden key opens every door. (Italian). 

The morning hour has gold in its mouth. (Dutch, Danish, 

The purest gold is the most ductile. (English). 
The true art of making gold is to have a good estate and 

spend little of it. (English). 
There is no better friend in misfortune than gold. (German) . 
There is no lock if the pick is of gold. (Spanish). 
^^^ There is no lock one cannot open with a golden key. 

'Tis folly to love fetters though they be of gold. (Latin). 
To fish with a golden hook. (Latin). 
To withhold truth is to bury gold. (Danish). 
Truth is better than gold. (Arabian). 
Try your skill in gilt first and then in gold. (English). 
Two things govern the world — women and gold. (German) . 
When gold speaks every tongue is silent. (German, 

When gold speaks you may hold your tongue. (English). 
When we have gold we are in fear; when we have none we 

are in danger. (English). 

All Is Not Gold That Glitters 89 

Where gold chinks arguments are of no avail. (German). 

Where there is gold, there the devil dwells. (German). 

Who fishes with a golden hook catches what he will. 

Who has gold can choose his son-in-law. (German). 

Who has gold has ease. (German). 

Who has gold is a welcome guest. (German). 

Who will prosecute a lawsuit must have much gold, good 
lawyers, much patience and much luck. (German). 

Who will win in a lawsuit must have three sacks — one 
with briefs, one with gold and one with luck. (Ger- 

Wisdom is better than gold or silver. (German). 

With houses and gold men are seldom brave. (German). 

Women, fortune and gold favor fools. (German). 

You may speak with your gold and make other tongues 
dumb. (English). 


(See "Who keeps company with a wolf learns 
to howl ' ' and ' ' Birds of a feather flock together. ' ') 

This proverb was well known to the old Greeks 
and Romans and was in common use before the 
Christian era. ^sop, the wise fabulist, told the 
story of The Ass and the Purchaser wherein a 
man was said to have desired to try an ass that 
was for sale before buying it, and taking it home 
placed it in his stable with other asses. The new- 
comer, ^sop said, began at once to associate 
with the laziest and greediest ass in the place, 
whereupon the man returned it to its owner say- 
ing that it was unnecessary to test the animal 
any further as its character was evident from its 
chosen companion. 

Euripides, the Athenian tragic poet a century 
later than ^sop, declared that "Every man is 
like the company he is wont to keep." 

" Do you see those two boys walking together," 
said Arnold of Rugby (i 795-1 842) to one of his 
assistants. "I never saw them together before; 
you should make an especial point of observing 
the company they keep — nothing so tells the 
changes in a boy's character." 

A Man Is Known by the Company 91 

" A husbandman pitched a net in his fields to 
take the cranes and geese which came to feed 
upon the new sown corn. Accordingly he took 
several, both cranes and geese, and among them 
a stork, who pleaded hard for his life, and, among 
other apologies which he made, alleged that he 
was neither goose nor crane, but a poor harmless 
stork who performed his duty to his parents to 
all intents and purposes, feeding them when they 
were old, and, as occasion required, carrying 
them from place to place upon his back. 'All 
this may be true,' replies the husbandman, 'but 
as I have taken you in bad company, and in the 
same crime, you must expect to suffer the same 
punishment.'" — iEsop, B.C. 56i(?), Samuel Crox- 
alVs translation. 

*"Do they never sleep neither?' said Sancho. 
'Never,' said Don Quixote; * At least they never 
closed their eyes while I was among them. ' ' Nor 
I neither,' quoth Sancho. * This makes good the 
saying, "Tell me thy company, and I will tell 
thee what thou art." — Saavedra Miguel 
Cervantes, a.d. 1547-16 16, Don Quixote. 

"If you wish to be held in esteem, you must 
associate only with those who are esteemed." — 
Jean de La Bruyere, a.d. 1645-1696. 

"Who friendship with a knave hath made 
Is judg'd a partner in the trade. 
'Tis thus that on the choice of friends 
Our good or evil name depends." 

John Gay, a.d. i 688-1 732, Fables, 

92 Proverbs Annotated 

"All men are judged, so I've heard say, 

By company they keep; 
But this is either very vague 

Or else it's very deep. 
The information I would seek 

Is — if it can be had — 
Does one that's bad become thus good 

Or good because thus bad?" — Anonymous. 

Variant Proverbs 

A man*s character is judged by the character of his com- 
panions. (Arabian). 
A man is judged by his companions. (Latin). 
Show me your company and I'll tell thee what thou art. 

Tell me the company you keep and Til tell you what you are. 

(French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch). 
Tell me whom you love and I'll tell you who you are. 

(Louisiana Creole). 
Tell me with whom thou goest and I'll tell thee what thou 

doest. (English). 
Tell me with whom you go and I'll tell you your value. 

(Modern Greek). 
Tell me with whom you live and I'll tell you what you are. 

(Spanish, French, Dutch and Italian). 
You may know him by the company he keeps. (EngHsh). 


A loose horse is sure to stand near the chaff house — ^i.e. 
An idle man can be found in the hatmts of his asso- 
ciates. (Behar). 

Attach thyself to honorable people and men will bow to 
thee. (Hebrew). 

A wicked companion invites us all to Hell. (English). 

He who associates with a suspicious person will himself 
be suspected. (Arabian). 

If bad be the raven, his company is no better. (Gaelic). 

A Man Is Known by the Company 93 

If you drink milk under a date tree they will say it is toddy. 

Join with good men and you will be one of them. (Spanish). 
Keep company with the good and you will be one of the 

number. (Portuguese). 
Smoke is no less an evidence of fire than that a man's 

character is that of the character of his associates. 

Take yoxir son to the market place and see with whom he 

associates. (Syrian). 
With whom you are such one you are. (Syrian). 


A man, by reason of commercial or political 
position and power, may be able to force another 
to obey his will, but he cannot compel him to 
change his opinions. 

"He that complies against his will 
Is of his own opinion still." 
Samuel Butler, a.d. 1612-1680, Hudibras. 

The proverb has been attributed to Queen 
Elizabeth of England, but it could not have 
originated with her — the thought is almost as 
old as man. "He who demands, does not com- 
mand" is an Italian saying that is expressed in 
many proverbial forms and applied to the man- 
agement of both men and animals. 

" But that time ye thought me a daw, so that I 
Did no good in all my words then, save only 
Approved this proverb plain and true matter: 
A man may well bring a horse to the water, 
But he cannot make him drink without his will." 
John Heywood, a.d. 1497-1580, 

A Dialogue of Effectual Proverbs. 

"I said I was afraid my father would force 
me to be a lawyer. 


A Man May Bring His Horse to Water 95 

Johnson. ' Sir, yoti need not be afraid of his 
forcing you to be a laborious practicing lawyer; 
that is not in his power. For as the proverb says, 
* One man may lead a horse to the water, but 
twenty cannot make him drink."* — ^James 
BoswELL, A.D. 1 740-1 795, Life of Samuel John- 

"'Ruben, the son of my cottar! Very weel, 
Jeanie lass, wilfu* woman will hae her way — 
Ruben Butler ! He hasna in his pouch the value 
o' the auld black coat he wears — But it disna 
signify.* And as he spoke he shut successively 
and with vehemence the drawers of his treasury. 
' A fair offer, Jeanie, is nae cause of feud — A man 
may bring a horse to the water, but twenty 
winna gar him drink — And as for wasting my 
substance on other folk's joes'** — Sir Walter 
Scott, a.d. i 771-1832, The Heart of Mid-Lothian. 

"There is the well-known and excellent warn- 
ing that * One may take a horse to the water but 
you cannot make him drink* — a hint that one 
cannot always have one*s own way, and that the 
co-operation of the other party in the arrange- 
ment is an essential point." — F. Edward Hulme, 
A.D. 1 841-1909, Proverb Lore. 


A man may lead a horse to the water, but four and twenty 

cannot gar him drink. (Scotch). 
Hwa is thet mei thet hors evettrien the him-self mule 

drinken? — Who is he that may water the horse and 

not drink himself. (English) . 

96 Proverbs Annotated 

If an ox won't drink you cannot make him bend his neck. 

In vain do you lead the ox to the water if he be not thirsty. 

(English, French). 
One man may lead a horse to water but twelve won't make 

him drink. (Gaelic). 
One may lead a horse to the water but twenty cannot make 

him drink. (English). 
You cannot make an ass drink if he is not thirsty. (French) . 
You may force a man to shut his eyes but you cannot make 

him sleep. (Danish). 
You may bring a horse to the river but he will drink when 

and what he pleaseth. (English). 
You may force an ox to water but you can't make him drink. 



He must be strong to pull a rope against a stronger. 

He who demands does not command. (Italian). 
Law cannot persuade where it cannot pimish. (English). 
Let a horse drink when he will, not what he will. (English) . 
The ftill belly does not believe in hunger. (Italian). 
The well fed man does not believe in hunger. (Italian). 
The will cannot be compelled. (Latin). 
They may tie a Lingam round a man's neck however much 

he resists it, but can they make him worship it? 

Thirty-three crores of gods joined together can make me 

hold my nose, but can they make me say "Nirayana?" 

Undertake no more than you can perform. (English). 
Who leads an ox to drink must first wet his own feet. 

Who has no thirst has no business at thefotmtain. (Dutch) . 
You cannot coax de mornin' glory to clime de wrong way 

roun' de corn stalk. (American — Negro). 


j Though a failure may not be great it is a fail- 

; ure. A narrow escape is an escape. Too late is 

f too late. If the train starts on time one may as 

[ well be an hour late as ten minutes. 

The origin of this proverb is unknown. Some 
have thought that it was derived from the less 
familiar "An inch of a miss is as good as a mile of 
a miss," but it is not probable. Ray's version, 
however, indicates that there was a close con- 
nection between the two. He renders the saying, 
"An inch of a miss is as good as an ell." Others 
believe that the proverb originally referred to 
two legendary soldiers of Charlemagne who 
resembled each other in character and appear- 
ance and who were named Amis and Amile. 
As they were regarded as martyrs it is said to 
have become the custom to invoke either of them 
when desired, hence the saying, "Amis is as 
good as Amile." Of course such an origin be- 
longs to the realm of fancy and is not reliable. 

Martin, Abbot of Asello in Italy, desired an 

inscription over the gate of his abbey, so the 

story runs, and selected this sentence for the 

purpose: "Gate be open. Never be closed 

7 97 

98 Proverbs Annotated 

against an honest man," but not being proficient 
in the art of punctuation, he and his copyist 
placed a period after the word "never" instead 
of the word * * open. * ' The pope on hearing of this 
strange inscription became indignant and de- 
posed Abbot Martin and gave it to another ec- 
clesiastic who corrected the punctuation and 
added to the inscription the words: " For a single 
point Martin lost his Asello" — Asello being not 
only the name of the abbey but also meaning an 
ass. The line was translated : "For a single point 
Martin lost his ass" which soon passed into a 
proverb among the French. In Italy it assumed 
the form of "For a point Martin lost the cope." 


A little too late is much too late. (German). 
A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse. (English). 
For a point Martin lost the cope. (Italian). 
For a single point Martin lost his ass. (French). 
Lost by a drop can't be recovered by a pond-full. (Hindus- 


The business man puts energy into a new 
enterprise, the laborer shows interest in a new 
line of work, the clerk is anxious to please a new 
employer, the maid tries to satisfy her new mis- 
tress and the child enterswith zest on a new game. 
New responsibilities call forth one's best en- 

There is a tradition that in the seventeenth 
century, when Admiral Tromp sought to defeat 
the English, he attached a broom to the mast of 
his vessel to indicate his intention of sweeping 
his enemies' ships off the seas; but the English 
Admiral, not to be intimidated by signs and 
symbols, answered the Dutch Commander by 
fastening a horsewhip to the mast of his vessel 
to show that, instead of being swept from the 
sea, he purposed to horsewhip Tromp and his 
men. This use of the horsewhip by the English 
Commander is said to have given rise to the pen- 
nant, but a broom fastened to the mast of a ves- 
sel now indicates that it is for sale. 

It was the custom in olden times, when the 

mistress of a house was away on a journey or 

visiting distant kindred or friends, to indicate 

her absence by hanging a broom outside the 


100 Proverbs Annotated 

window that all might know her household ser- 
vices had been suspended. 

The origin of the proverb is unknown. 

"Some laughed, and said: All things is gay that is green 
Some thereto said: The green new broom sweepeth clean: 
But since all things is the worse for the wearing, 
Decay of clean sweeping folk has in fearing." 

John Heywood, a.d. 1497-1580. 

"New broom sweep>eth clean, which is thus understand — 
New broom sweepeth clean in the clean sweeper's hand." 

John Heywood. 

variant proverbs 

A new bissome soupe's clean. (Scotch). 

A new broom is good for three days. (Italian). 

A new broom's a clean broom. (Mauritius Creole) . 

A new broom sweeps clean but the old brush knows the 
comers. (Iri'sh-Farney). 

A new broom sweeps clean but the old one is good for 
comers. (Dutch). 

A new broom sweeps the room well. (Italian) . 

A new servant never transgresses the commands of her 
mistress but if too obsequious, she inspires no con- 
fidence. (Sanskrit). 

A new servant will catch a deer. (Hindustani). 

A new washwoman applies soap to rags even — Rags are 
seldom washed in India. (Behar). 

A new washwoman will wash with great care. (Tamil). 

A new broom sweeps clean. (English, Italian). 

New servants are swift. (Persian) . 

New things are fair. (English). 


All that is new is fine. (French), 

A new pot keeps the water cold for a few days. (Persian). 

A New Broom Sweeps Clean loi 

An old ass is never good. (English). 

An old dog will learn no tricks. (English). 

An old parrot does not mind the stick. (Latin). 

An old physician and a young lawyer — are the best. 

(English, Italian). 
Flies do not swarm on a new pot. (Tamil). 
In a thing that is fresh the pleasure is of a different kind. 

New dishes beget new appetites. (English). 
New laws, new deceit. (German). 
New laws, new frauds. (English). 
New lords, new laws. (English). 
New meat begets a new appetite. (English). 
New pastures make fat sheep. (English). 
The water of a fresh jar is cold. (Osmanli). 
Yotmg flesh and old fish are the best. (English). 


A new government and a drum on a hen's back. 

A proverb expressing contempt for new laws. 
^ (Hindustani). 

\ An old broom is better than a new one. (Accra — W. 
^^ Africa). 

An old ox makes a straight furrow. (English). 

An old wise man's shadow is better than a young buzzard's 
sword. (English). 

Old ovens are soon hot. (English). 

Old shoes are easiest. (English). 

The prime of youth and weak in the loins. (Hindustani). 



A little common sense is better than a thorough education. 
A little cleverness counts for more than great scholarship. 
A little shrewdness is more valuable than much knowledge. 
A little imderstanding of men and things is of more benefit 

than a large acquaintance with books. 
A little luck leads to success quicker than much striving. 

It has been the common opinion of men in all 
lands and in all ages, particularly of those who 
have not had the advantages of education, to 
disparage the work and achievements of others 
who have sought wisdom through the training of 
the mind. There are few folk sayings that com- 
mend scholarship, but many that laud natural 
brightness of mind, keenness of thought, quick- 
ness of perceptions and what is termed "good 
luck." When comparisons are made the rela- 
tive value of acquired and natural ability is often 
expressed by pounds and ounces. 

Scripture References: Prov., 3: 13-18; 8: 
1-2 1 ; 17: 16. 

"For all that Nature by her mother-wit 
Could frame on earth." 

Edmund Spenser, a.d. i 553-1 599, 

Faerie Queene. 

An Ounce of Mother Wit 103 

"Katharina: Where did you study all this goodly 

" Petruchio: It is extempore from my mother- wit. 

" Katharina: A witty mother! Witless else her son." 

Shakespeare, a. d. 1564-16 16. The Taming of the 

"'An ounce o' mither-wit is worth a pound 
o' clergy,' says the Scotch proverb, and the 
'mother- wit,' Mutter geist and Mutterwitz, that 
instructive common sense, that saving Hght that 
makes the genius and even the fool in the midst 
of his folly, wise, appear in folk lore and folk 
speech everywhere. What statistics of genius 
seem to show that great men owe to their mo- 
thers, no less than fools, is summed up by the 
folk mind in the word mother- wit." — Alexan- 
derF. Chamberlain, A.D., 1866-1914 — The Child 
and Childhood in Folk-Thought. 


A dram of discretion is worth a pound of wisdom. (Ger- 
man, Italian). 

A drop of fortune rather than a cask of wisdom. (Latin). 

A grain of good luck is better than an ass load of skill. 

A handful of good life is better than a bushel of learning. 
(English, French). 

A handful of good life is better than seven bushels of 
learning. (English, French). 

A handful of luck is better than a sack full of wisdom. 

An ounce o* a man's ain wit is worth ten 0' ither folks. 

104 Proverbs Annotated 

An ounce o' mither-wit, is worth a pound o* clergy. 

An ounce o* wit is worth a pound o* lear. (Scotch). 
An ounce of favor goes further than a pound of justice. 

(English, French). 
An ounce of fortune is worth a pound of forecast. (English). 
An ounce of discretion is better than a pound of knowledge. 

An ounce of luck is worth a pound of wisdom. (English, 

An ounce of mother-wit is worth a pound of school-wit. 

An ounce of patience is worth a pound of brains. (Dutch) 
An ounce of practice is worth a poimd of preaching. 

An ounce of state to a potmd of gold. (Spanish). 
An ounce of wit that's bought (through experience) is 

worth a pound that's taught. (English). 
A pot full of luck is better than a sack full of wisdom. 

Better an ounce of luck than a pound of intelligence. 

Good luck is better than brains. (Serbian). 
Half an ounce of luck is better than a potmd of sense. 



A cart load of friendship is not worth a barley com of kin. 

An honest penny is better than a stolen dollar. (English). 
A single penny fairly got is worth a thousand that are not. 

Better a little good than much bad. (German). 
Better a little peace with right than much with anxiety 

and strife. (Danish). 
Better a little with honor than much with shame. (English). 
Better to be bom lucky than wise. (English). 

An Ounce of Mother Wit 105 

Better untaught than ill taught. (English). 

In one scale the four Veds, in the other natural wit — 
Erudition weighs lighter than natural wit. (Hindus- 

Learning is worthless without mother-wit. (Spanish). 

One penny is better on land than ten on the sea. (Danish) . 

Patience surpasses learning. (Dutch). 

Penny wise and pound foolish. (English). 

Science is madness if good sense does not cure it. (Span- 

Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of 
themselves. (English). 

Who has luck needs no understanding. (German). 


An ounce of discretion is worth a pound of wit. (English). 
An ounce of wisdom is worth a pound of wit. (English). 



This proverb is applied to people who having 
restless natures frequently change their place of 
residence or employment in a vain endeavor of 
bettering themselves. It is found in almost 
every language and belongs to the same class of 
proverbs as "Three removes are as bad as a 
fire" (English) and "A tree often transplanted 
neither grows nor thrives" (Spanish). 

"I never saw an oft removed tree, 
Nor yet an oft removed family, 
That throve so well as one that settled be." 

Mr. Frank Cowan, while acknowledging, in 
his Dictionary of Sea Proverbs, that the saying 
originated with the Greeks, traces its English 
form to William Langland as the earliest author 
known to him, who seemed to have the phrase 
in mind and quotes the following from Piers 

"Seldom mosseth the marble stone 
That men oft tread. " 

Mr. John Tweezer, writing in the KeystonCy 

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss 107 

March, 1894, says that the Spanish form of the 
proverb is "older than the Court of Isabella 
(a. d. 1451-1504), older than the Cid (a.d. 1040- 
1099), older than the earliest traditions of Span- 
ish chivalry"; that the Italian form predates the 
time of Dante (a.d. 1265-132 i) and that the 
Portuguese rendering is older than the first 
crusade (a.d. 1096). 

The proverb is of great antiquity and there is 
little doubt but that it was first used by men 
living in some sea coast district, for the only 
stones known to be in continual motion are those 
that are tossed by the waves, rolling to and fro 
among the rocks with the incoming and outgoing 
tides. Such stones are worn smooth and not 
suffered to accumulate any seaweed. That the 
stones referred to in the proverb were originally 
such as are found on the seashore is further shown 
by the earlier Latin form in which it is rendered, 
**A rolling stone gathers no seaweed." 

"Ye merchant! What attempteth you to attempt us, 
To come on us before the messenger thus? 
Roaming in and out, I hear tell how ye toss; 
But son, the rolling stone never gathereth moss." 

John Heywood, a.d. 1497-1580, A Dialogue. 

"The stone that is rolling, can gather no moss, 
Who often removeth is surer of loss ; 
The rich it compelleth to pay for his pride. 
The poor it undoeth on every side." 

Thomas Tusser, a.d. i 524-1 580, 
Five Hundred Points of Good Hushandrie. 

io8 Proverbs Annotated 

"There are a set of people in the world of so 
unsettled and restless a temper, and such ad- 
mirers of novelty, that they can never be long 
pleased with one way of living, no more than to 
continue long in one habitation ; but before they 
are well enter'd upon one business, dip into 
another, and before they are well settled in one 
habitation, remove to another; so that they are 
always busily beginning to live, but by reason of 
fickleness and impatience, never arrive at a way 
of living. Such persons fall under the doom of 
this proverb, which is designed to fix the volatil- 
ity of their tempers, by laying before them the 
ill consequences of such fickleness and incon- 
stancy." — Nathan Bailey, a.d. 1742, Diverse 

"From the time they first gained a foothold on 
Plymouth Rock they began to migrate, progress- 
ing and progressing from place to place and land 
to land, making a little here and a little there, 
and controverting the old proverb that a rolling 
stone gathers no moss." — Washington Irving, 
a.d. 1783-1859. 

"As the rolling stone gathers no moss, so 
the roving heart gathers no affections." — 
Anna Bronnell Jameson, a.d. i 794-1 860, 

"One of the members of his (Mr. Shireff) 
church was John Henderson or Anderson — a very 
decent douce shoemaker — and who left the 
church and joined the Independents, who had a 

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss 109 

meeting in Sterling. Some time afterwards, 
when Mr. Shireff met John on the road, he said, 
*And so, John, I understand you have become 
an Independent?' 'Dear Sir,' replied John. 
'That's true.' 'Oh, John,' said the minister, 
'I'm sure ye ken that a rowin' stane gather 
nae fog (moss).* 'Ay,' said John, 'that's true 
too; but can ye tell me what guid the fog does to 
the stane?' Mr. Shireff himself afterwards be- 
came a Baptist." — Dean Edward B. Ramsay, 
A.D. 1 793-1 872, Reminiscences. 

" * You have always been a very good friend of 
me, Mr. Varden,' he said, as he stood without, in 
the porch, and the locksmith was equipping 
himself for his journey home; ' I take it very kind 
of you to say all this, but the time's nearly come 
when the Maypole and I must part company.' 

'Roving stones gather no moss, Joe,* said 

'Nor mile-stones much,' replied Joe. 'I'm 
little better than one here, and see as much of 
the world.'" — Charles Dickens, a.d. 1812- 
1870, Barnaby Rudge. 

In August, 1 829 the following announcement of 
the marriage of Cotton K. Simpson of Pembroke, 
N. H. to Miss Sarah R. Marble, appeared in 
Haverhill, Mass. 

"An old calculation of gain and loss 
Proves ' a stone that is rolling will gather no moss.* 
A happy expedient has lately been thought on, 
By which Marble may gather and cultivate Cotton." 

no Proverbs Annotated 

"Probably it originated with the Greeks, who 
lived on a peninsula and an archipelago, and in 
whose ancient literature it is found. That the 
above is the proper figure of the proverb appears 
clearly in several of its foreign forms where such 
words as Greek Phukos, Latin Fucus, the mod- 
ern term for a genus of sea-mosses, — and Latin 
Alga, from which is derived Algas, the name of 
the order comprising the sea-weeds — correspond 
to the English word moss, and the Scottish fog, 
which is simply a variation of phukos, or fucus. 
The poetic beauty of this proverb is great — much 
greater than that of most proverbs, which also 
favors its origin from the aesthetic Greeks." — 
Frank Cowan, a.d. 1844- 1906, Dictionary of Sea 

"When my young brother started out into the 
great world to try his fortunes, instead of a 
kindly *God speed,' he only heard, *A rolling 
stone gathers no moss,' and when my bankrupt 
uncle thought to take his stalwart sons and rosy 
daughters and in the far West begin life anew, 
his neighbors gravely shook their heads, remark- 
ing, *A drowning man catches at a straw,* or 
they reminded him by way of discouragement 
that, 'Three removes are as bad as a fire."* — 
Louise V. Boyd, a.d. 1873-, Of Proverbs and 


A plant often removed cannot thrive. (Latin, English). 

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss iii 

A rolling stone gathers no seaweed. (Latin). 

A rowin* stane gathers nae fog. (Scotch). 

A stone often removed gathers no moss. (Polish). 

A tree often removed will hardly bear fruit. (French). 

A trolling stone gathers no moss. (English — Yorkshire 

A timilan stann gidders nae moss. (English — Cumber- 
land form). 

Moss grows not on oft turned stones. (Gaelic). 

The rolling stone without moss. (Irish). 


A heavy stone remains in its place. (Syriac). 

A rugged stone grows smooth from hand to hand. (Eng- 

A wheel that turns gathers no rust. (Modem Greek). 

Old trees must not be transplanted. (French). 

People often change and seldom do better. (English). 

Remove an old tree and it will wither to death. (English). 

Running about gives no scholars. (African — Wolof). 

Seize one door, and seize it firmly — ^i.e. Hold firmly to one 
patron or business and do not change from one to 
another. (Persian). 

Three removes are as bad as a fire. (Italian). 

Today I am going! — Tomorrow I am going! gives the 

stranger no encouragement to plant the Ahusa. 

The proverb refers to the removal of one's residence, 

giving the planter no encouragement. The Ahusa 

bears fruit quickly. (African). 

Who often changes suffers. (French — Yoruba). 


A millstone does not become mossgrown; unlike the roll- 
ing stone it performs its work and serves men by 
motion. (German). 

A setting hen loses her breast feathers. (English). 

112 Proverbs Annotated 

A setting hen never gets fat. (English). 

A tethered sheep soon starves. (English). 

Change of pasture makes fat calves. (English). 

Seldon moseth the marbelston that ofte treden. (English 

as rendered by William Langland). 
Who stands still in the mud sticks in it. (Chinese). 


85, 86, 312. 

Though the traditional Gothamites were wise 
in their folly the proverbial phrase — "As wise as 
a man of Gotham" — is usually applied to stupid 

The little town of Gotham, seven miles from 
Nottingham, England, contains over a thousand 
people whose intelligence is fully equal to that 
of other communities of the same size, yet all 
who dwell in the district have been regarded for 
centuries as devoid of understanding. There is 
an old rhyme that says: 

"The little smith of Nottingham 
Who doth the work that no man can." 

The rhyme has often been quoted as a taunt, 
flung at someone in the little community who 
pretended to have a certain ability others did not 
possess. Dr. Thomas Fuller in the seventeenth 
century said that he suspected that the little 
smith never lived except in the imagination of 
the rhymester, which is probably true, the rhyme 
being a taunt at those who lived in the district. 

That the Gothamites were not fools, may be 
seen from the reply of one of their number, a 
8 113 

114 Proverbs Annotated 

mere boy who, it is said, was interrupted in his 
work in a field by a passing stranger, who in- 
quired: "Is this the Gotham where the fools 
come from?" "No, Sir," replied the lad, "this 
is the Gotham that the fools come to." 

No one knows why Gotham was thought to 
contain more simpletons than other towns. The 
story that is said to have given rise to the belief 
is without historic foundation. It may even have 
been applied to the Gothamites subsequent to 
the traditions of its simplicity. It is as follows: 

In the early part of the thirteenth century 
King John determined to secure an estate and 
build a castle in Gotham and sent a messenger 
to look over the ground. The townsfolk, hearing 
of the king's purpose and knowing that if it were 
carried out they would be subjected to heavy 
expense and loaded with burdens, sought means 
to circumvent their sovereign's will. After con- 
sultation they agreed to the novel expedient of 
pretending that they were idiots, so that when 
the messenger arrived he would think that no 
one in the district was sane. The plan worked as 
they expected. The King's representative came 
to the town, examined the ground and conversed 
with the people. Finding that they were all 
engaged in some childish employment and talked 
foolishly he was at first surprised and then dis- 
gusted. Returning he reported to his Sovereign 
that Gotham was not a fit place for a royal 
estate and castle, as it was inhabited by fools; 

As Wise as a Man of Gotham 115 

whereupon King John gave up his project and 
permitted the people to Hve in peace. 

This absurd tale gave rise to others that were 
intended to prove that the people did not pre- 
tend to be idiots but acted as they did because 
they were actually devoid of reason. The best 
known of these stories is The Hedging of the 
Cuckoo, given in notes on the proverb, "A bird 
in the hand is worth tv/o in the bush" that gave 
rise to the old proverbial expression "To fence 
in the cuckoo." 

All the tales used to indicate the stupidity of 
the people existed long before the sixteenth 
century when they were brought together and 
applied to the Gothamites. Mr. W. H. Daven- 
port Adams (a.d. 1829-1891) says, "It is quite 
possible that the best of the tales of Gotham were 
foreign in origin, were afterwards naturalized 
in England and finally located." It is certain 
that they are all very old and were fathered on 
the innocent Gothamites as a taunting joke. 

Among the Syrians, Homs (the ancient Amasa) 
was regarded as the dwelling place of dullards. 
Asiatics declared that there was no district that 
contained more idiots than Phrygia. The North 
Africa wandering tribes spoke of Beni Jennad 
as the place of shallow brained people. The 
Greeks had their Boeotia, whose citizens were 
stupid and to whom was attributed many child- 
ish deeds and sayings. The Thracians pointed to 
Abdera in derision as the dwelling place of 

Ii6 Proverbs Annotated 

noodles. The Persians referred to the Geelan 
townsfolk as fools. The Hindustani regard the 
Badauns as simpletons and refer to them as 
children. The Scotch derided the people of Cu- 
par in Fife because of their reputed dullness. 
The French laughed at Saint Maixent where 
dizzards dwelt and expressed their opinion of 
the stupidity of the Champanese by saying, 
"Ninety-nine sheep and a Champanese make a 
round hundred." The Germans had their Swa- 
bia, also their fabled city of Schildburg where 
dotards found a home. The Italians compared 
witless men to the inhabitants of Zago, declaring 
that the people of Zago sowed needles to raise a 
crop of crowbars and fertilized a steeple to make 
it grow higher. Hollanders credited the dwellers 
in Kampan with all kinds of brainless acts. The 
Swiss looked at the townspeople of Belmont 
near Lausanne as blockheads. The Belgians 
laughed at the inhabitants of Dinant, and the 
feeling of the Jews toward the people who lived 
in the home town of the child Jesus was ex- 
pressed by Nathaniel who asked, " Can any good 
thing come out of Nazareth?" 

There have been few countries that have not 
made some town or district the object of jest; 
it is no wonder therefore that Englishmen should 
have laughed at Gotham and her people. 

Washington Irving showed his keen sense of 
humor when he nicknamed the City of New 
York, Gotham, because of the presumption of 

As Wise as a Man of Gotham 117 

its citizens, who prided themselves on their wis- 
dom. " It so happened by great mischance," he 
wrote in Salmagundi, "that divers light-heeled 
youth of Gotham, more especially those who are 
descended from three wise men, so renowned of 
yore for having most venturesomely voyaged 
over sea in a bowl, were from time to time cap- 
tured and inveigled into the camp of the enemy." 

" Then to Gotham, where stire am I, 
Though not all fools I saw many; 
Here a Shee-gull found I prancing. 
And in moonshine nimbly dancing. 
There another wanton madling 
Who her hog was set a saddling." 
Richard Braithwaite, a.d. i 588-1673, 

Barnaboe Itinerarium. 

** Tell me no more of Gotham fools. 
Or of their eels in little pools 

Which they, we're told, were drowning; 
Nor of their carts drawn up on high, 
When King John's men were standing by, 

To keep a wood from browning. 

" Nor of their cheese shoved down the hill, 
Nor of a cuckoo sitting still, 

While it they hedged aroimd; 
Such tales of them have long been told 
By prating boobies, yoimg and old, 

In drunken circles crowned. 

" The fools are those who thither go 
To see the cuckoo bush I trow 

Ii8 Proverbs Annotated 

The wood, the barn, the pools; 
For such are seen both here and there, 
And passed by without a sneer 

By all but arrant fools." 
Unknown Eighteenth Century Poet. 

"Seamen three! What men be ye? 
Gotham's three wise men we be, 
Whither in your bowl so free? 
To rake the moon from out the sea : 
The bowl goes trim. The moon doth shine, 
And our ballast is old wine; 
And your ballast is old wine. 

" Who art thou, so fast adrift? 
I am he they call old Care. 
Here on board we will three drift. 
No : I may not enter there. 
Wherefore so? 'Tis Jove's decree. 
In a bowl Care may not be; 
In a bowl Care may not be. 

"Fear ye not the waves that roll? 
No : In charmed bowl we swim. 
What the charm that floats the bowl? 
Water may not pass the brim. 
The bowl goes trim. The moon doth shine 
And our ballast is old wine; 
And your ballast is old wine." 

Thomas Love Peacock, a.d., i 785-1 866. 

" Three wise men of Gotham 
Went to sea in a bowl; 
And if the bowl had been stronger 
My song would have been longer." 

Old Nursery Rhyme. 

As Wise as a Man of Gotham 119 


As learnt as a scholar 0* Buckhaven College. 

Used ironically as there is no such such institution 
as Buckhaven College. (Scotch). 
As wise as an ape. (English). 

Used ironically. 
As wise as a daw. (English). 

Used ironically. 
As wise as a hare. (English). 

Used ironically. 
As wise as a woodcock. (English). 

Used ironically. 
As wise as a wren. (English). 

Used ironically. 
As wise as the Mayor of Danbury who would prove that 

Henry III was before Henry H. (English). 
As wise as Waltam's (sometimes written: Waltham's, 
Watton's or Wudsie's) calf. (English). 

Various writers have extended this proverb thus, 
"As wise as Waltam's calf that ran nine miles to 
suck a bull." 
A wise man and a fool together know more than a wise man 

alone. (Italian). 
A wise man may look ridiculous in the company of fools. 

Children of Badaun. A place where fools live. (Hin- 
He that will to Cupar maim to Cupar. (Scotch). 

"Applied to foolish or reckless persons who persist 
in carrying on projects in the face of certain fail- 
ure, of which they have been duly advised. Why 
Cupar, the capital of the Kingdom of Life should 
have been selected as typical of such * pig- 
headness' we are unable to say." — ^Alexander 
HiSLOP, A.D. 1862. 
He is not a wise man who cannot play the fool on occasions. 

120 Proverbs Annotated 

If a man of Naresh has kissed thee, count thy teeth. 

Narish in Babylonia. (Hebrew), 
If wise men play the fool they do it with a vengeance. 

It takes a wise man to be a fool. (English). 
Nobody is so wise but has a little folly to spare. (German). 
None can play the fool as well as a wise man. (English) . 
The clown of Geelan. The fools of Geelan. (Persian). 
'Tis wisdom sometimes to seem a fool. (English). 
To fence in the cuckoo. (English). 
To put gates to the fields. (Spanish). 


Reports of events, when often repeated, are 
seldom strictly in accord with facts, not only 
because those who repeat what they hear are 
frequently ignorant of details, but because many 
people are prone to secure attention and interest 
by embellishments. It is for this reason that the 
chatterings of gossips and the graphic tales of 
babblers are said never to lose in the telling. 
Gossip has been well described as putting two 
and two together and making it five. 

The tendency of some people to enlarge upon a 
story or to make personal adventures seem more 
wonderful than they were by fictitious additions 
has been noticed in all ages. St. Paul wrote of 
tattlers and busybodies who went about from 
house to house speaking things they ought not 
(I Tim. 5: 13) and St. James declared that the 
tongue though little boasted great things (James 
3:5). The proverb is therefore an expression 
belonging to no particular age or country but is a 
common observation that springs to the lips of 
all who have any intercourse with their fellow 

There is an old story told in India that 

122 Proverbs Annotated 

illustrates the proneness of some people tc ex- 
aggerate when they narrate experiences. 

A hard working woman who had an idler for 
a husband sought in every way to induce him to 
labor, but in vain. He only became angry when 
she spoke to him on the subject and threatened 
that if she did not cease her faultfinding he 
would leave her. As she did not believe that he 
would carry out his threat, she told him to go. 
So he left the house and started for the Plains. 
Seeing him depart she donned the clothes of an 
officer of the law and, taking a gun and sword, 
followed him. Managing in some way to pass 
him without being observed she stood in the 
path and threatened to kill him if he did not re- 
turn and promise never again to leave the vil- 
lage by the same road, for she knew that there 
was no other path by which to reach the Plains. 
The man not recognizing his wife in her disguise 
was so frightened that he readily pledged his 
word and retraced his steps. Seeing that her 
trick had proved successful she went back to the 
village avoiding him by the way. On reaching 
his home he was met by his spouse who asked the 
reason for his change of mind. "How could I 
go,'* he answered, "when a hundred constables 
stood in the way and threatened to kill me?" 
Knowing the truth she plied him with questions 
till he confessed that there were only fifty con- 
stables, then that there were only twenty-five, 
then that there were only ten, then that there 

A Tale Never Loses In the Telling 123 

were only five, then that there were only two and 
finally that there was only one. 

"These carry elsewhere what has been told 
them; the proportion of the falsehood increases 
and the latest teller adds something to what he 
has heard." — Ovid, b.c. 43-A.D. 17. 

Who so shall telle a tale after a man, 
He moste reherse, as neighe as ever he can, 
Everich word, if it be in his charge, 
All speke he never so rudely and so large; 
Or elles he moste tellen his tale untrewe, 
Or feinen thinges, or finden wordes newe. " 
Geoffrey Chaucer, a.d. I34o(?)-I400, 

Canterbury Tales. 

"Such difference is there in an oft-told tale; 
But truth, by its own sinews, wiU prevail. " 
John Dryden, a.d. 1631-1700, Religio Laici. 

" Lest men suspect your tale untrue 
Keep probability in view. " 

John Gay, a.d. 1688-1732, The Painter. 

"Report, than which no evil thing of any kind is more 

Increases with travel and gains strength by its progress. " 
Vergil, b.c. 70-19, Mneid. 

allied proverbs 

A crow (another) crow (a third) crow, a hundred crows. 

A good tale ill told is a bad one. (English). 
A good tale is not the worse for being twice told. (English). 
A large fire often comes from a small spark. (Danish). 

124 Proverbs Annotated 

A louse exaggerated into a buffalo. (Kumaun, Garhwal). 
A story grows by telling, a bit of straw makes the hole in 

the ear larger, a girl grows up best at her mother*s 

house, paddy grows best on the pathar. (Assamese). 
Falsehood never tires of going round about. (Danish). 
From long journeys long lies. (Spanish). 
Great talkers are commonly liars. (English). 
Hear say is half lies. (German). 

He may lie boldly who comes from afar. (French, Italian). 
He who prates much lies much. (German). 
In the fair tale, is foul falsity. (English) . 
In the report of riches and goodness always bate one-half. 

Lies and gossip have a wretched offspring. (Danish). 
Lying and gossiping go hand in hand. (Spanish). 
Much talking, much erring. (English, Spanish). 
Old men and far travelers may lie by authority. (English) . 
Report can never be brought to state things with precision. 

Report makes the crows blacker than they are. (English) . 
Report makes the wolf bigger than he is. (German). 
Talking very much and lying are cousins. (German). 
The dirt of a jackal is made into a moimtain. (Behar). 
The nimblest footman is a false tale. (English). 
The tale runs as it pleases the teller. (English). 
" They say so " is half a lie. (English). 



This saying is used in disapproval of women of 
masculine appearance, or who are thought to be 
manlike in disposition and habit. In olden times 
witches were believed to be in league with Satan 
and to whistle for the wind which blew at their 
command. Women therefore who indulged in 
the practice of whistling were regarded as in 
some way associated with witches and under the 
influence of the powers of darkness. As the 
crowing of a hen was, according to a common 
superstitition, believed to be indicative of calam- 
ity and death, the offending barnyard fowl was 
immediately killed to prevent if possible any 
resultant evil. The old Normans had a similar 
superstition regarding crowing hens. 

One of the strange freaks of proverb migra- 
tion is found in the Chinese saying, ** A bustling 
woman and a crowing hen are neither fit for 
gods nor men," which leads the people after the 
manner of our own ancestors to slay a crowing 
hen and thus prevent misfortune. The super- 
stitition has taken such a strong hold on the 
Chinese that the destruction of crowing hens is 

126 Proverbs Annotated 

enjoyed by their priests and has become a 
common practice. 

According to an ancient legend it is said that 
when the nails were being forged that were to be 
used in fastening Jesus to the cross, a woman 
standing near the smith and watching him at his 
work, began to whistle, and that because of her 
act the heart of the Virgin Mary bled afresh. 

Mr. T. F. Thiselton-Dyre tells us in his Folk- 
lore of Women that a party of women at one time 
attempted to go on board a vessel at Scarborough 
and were prevented by the Captain who said, 
"No, not that young lady, she whistles." Her 
whistling prevented her going on the trip that 
she had planned, as the captain believed, ac- 
cording to a prevailing superstition, that if she 
went some calamity would come to his craft. 
As it was his vessel was wrecked on the next 
voyage. "Had the young lady set foot on it," 
says Mr. Thiselton-Dyre, "the catastrophy 
would have been attributed to her." 

The old English children's game of "Sally 
Waters" has a dialogue in which a daughter is 
told to whistle. Whistling being generally for- 
bidden as a kind of implication that marked a 
woman out as a witch, she demurred at the pro- 
posal. The verses are as follows : 

"Whistle, daughter, whistle, whistle for a cradle, 
I cannot whistle. Mammy, 'deed I am not able. 

Whistle, daughter, whistle, whistle for a cow, 

I cannot whistle, Mammy, 'deed I know not how. 

Whistling Woman and Crowing Hen 127 

Whistle, daughter, whistle, whistle for a man, 

I cannot whistle. Mammy; whew! Yes, I believe I can." 

Another form of the verses is given by Halli- 
well as a nursery song as follows : 

"Whistle, daughter, whistle, whistle, daughter dear; 
I cannot whistle, Mammy, I cannot whistle clear. 

Whistle, daughter, whistle, whistle for a poimd, 
I cannot whistle. Mammy, I cannot make a soimd." 


A bustling woman and crowing hen are neither fit for God 

nor men. (Chinese). 
A hen which crows and a girl who whistles bring the house 

bad luck. (French). 
A whistling wife and a crowing hen will call the old gentle- 
man out of his den. (English). 
A whistling wife and a crowing hen will come to God, but 

God knows when. (English). 
A whistling wife and a crowing hen will fight the devil out 

of his den. (English). 
A whistling woman and a crowing hen are neither fit for 

God nor men. (English). 
A whistling woman and a crowing hen are two of the un- 

luckiest things under the sim. (English — Cornwall). 

A whistling woman and a crowing hen will fear the old lad 

J out of his den. (English). 

"^fl^ woman who talks like a man and a hen which crows like 

/ a cock are no good to anyone. (French). 

Girls whistling and hens crowing — both are considered 

unnatural and out of place. (Gaelic). 
Whistling girls and crowing hens always come to some 

bad ends. (English). 
Whistling of women and crowing of hens — two forbidden 

things. (Gaelic). 



128 Proverbs Annotated 


If the hen crows instead of the cock there won't be peace 
in the fowl yard. (Japanese). 

If you be a cock, crow; if a hen, lay eggs. (Persian). 

HI fares the hapless family that shows a cock that's silent 
and a hen that crows. (English). 

It goes ill with the house where the hen sings and the cock 
is silent. (Spanish). 
yj It is a sad house where the hen crows louder than the cock. 

It is a sorry house in which the cock is silent and the hen 
crows. (French, Italian). 

It is said that even the hen reared by a talkative woman 
crows. (Singalese). 

It never goes well when the hen crows. (Russian). 

That house is unhappy wherein the hen crows. (Bul- 

That were the hen crowing before the cock. (Gaelic). 

The crowing of a hen is no rule — i.e. Reliance cannot be 
placed on the opinion of a woman. (Hindustani). 

The hen is not a cock nor a woman a man. (Russian). 

The hen should not crow like the cock. (Russian). 

The house doth every day more wretched grow where the 
hen louder than the cock doth crow. (French). 

There is little peace in that house where the hen crows and 
the cock is mute. (Italian). 

What trust is there in a crowing hen? (Indian). 

When girls whistle the devil laughs outright. (English- 

Where the hen crows the house falls to ruin. Qapanese). 

Where the cock is the hen does not crow. (Portuguese). 

274, 300 

See "A man is known by the company he 

The age of the proverb is unknown. The fact 
that it is quoted in substantially the same form 
that we now use, by Jesus the Son of Sirach, in- 
dicates that it was probably known earlier than 
the second century before the coming of Christ. 

The old Jewish Rabbis were wont to say that 
the degenerate palm went among the unfruit- 
ful reeds. The same thought is expressed in our 
familiar saying, "Like to like the world over." 
People of similar tastes, habits or interests are 
everywhere drawn to each other. If it were not 
so this world would be a lonely place for many. 

"The good seek the good and the evil the 
evil. * ' "He that walketh with the virtuous is one 
of them" (English), and "No worm-eaten bean 
remains without finding a half blind measure" 

Among the strongest influences at work in 
drawing men together are those that come from 
kinship and marriage. One sometimes hears it 
said in the north of Ireland, " Go nine ridges and 
nine furrows further to (assist) your own people 

9 129 

130 Proverbs Annotated 

than you would to the stranger," for "blood is 
thicker than water," and again we are told that 
if one marries a mountain girl he marries the 
whole mountain — that is, he must make friends 
of his wife's companions. 

The proverb finds its parallel in all parts of the 
world. One of the strangest forms is that used 
by the Oji-speaking people of the Ashanti dis- 
trict of Africa, who, believing that Satan lives in 
the dense forest, declare that "When the fiend 
goes to the Sabbat (or customs) he lodges with 
the sorcerer," that is, he seeks his kind in associa- 
tion with the devil possessed. 

"The birds will resort unto their like; so will 
truth return unto them that practice in her." — 
Jesus the Son of Sirach, 27: 9. 

"The Jews which believed not, havynge in- 
dignacion, take unto them evyll men which were 
vagabondes, and gathered a company, and set 
all the cite on a roore, and made asaute unto the 
housse of Jason, and sought to bringe them out to 
the people." — The Acts, 17: 5, Tyndale Ver- 
sion, A.D. 1534. 

"'Tis this similitude of manners, which ties 
most men in an inseparable link, as if they be 
addicted to the same studies or disports, they 
deHght in one another's companies, 'birds of a 
feather will gather together*; if they be of di- 
verse inclinations, or opposite in manners, they 
can seldom agree." — Robert Burton, a.d. 
1 576-1 640, Anatomy of Melancholy. 

Birds of a Feather Flock Together 131 

"May not too much familiarity with profane 
wretches be justly charged upon church mem- 
bers? I know man is a sociable creature, but 
that will not excuse saints as to their carelessness 
of the choice of their company. The very fowls 
of the air, and beasts of the field, love not heter- 
ogeneous company. 'Birds of a feather flock 
together.*" — Lewis Stuckley, a.d. -1687, 

Gospel Glass. 

" 'Tis natural for cattle of the same kind to go 
together in herds, upon mountains, in valleys, 
and in plains all the world over. The sheep 
follow their bell-wether as forcibly, and as close 
upon the heel, for good pasture, as rebels do their 
ringleaders for spoil and booty. The tingling 
of a bell keeps those together, and the hopes 
of a golden fleece these; pillage, plunder and 
rapine, interest and irreligion, being the prin- 
cipal motives to all rebellious cabals or asso- 
ciations." — Oswald Dykes, a.d. 1907, Moral 

"Every fowler knows the truth of this prov- 
erb ; but it has a further meaning than the asso- 
ciation of irrational creatures. It intimates that 
society is a powerful attraction, but that like- 
ness is the lure that draws people of the same 
kidney together. A covey of partridges in the 
country is but an emblem of a company of gossips 
in a neighborhood, a knot of sharpers at the 
gaming table, a pack of rakes at the tavern, etc. 
That one fool loves another, one fop admires 

132 Proverbs Annotated 

another, one blockhead is pleased at the assur- 
ance, conceit and affection of another; and 
therefore herd together." — Nathan Bailey, 
A.D. 1 72 1, Diverse Proverbs. 

"Birds of a feather flock together, when free 
to follow their own inclinations, though rather 
than remain alone, they will seek out with avid- 
ity the fellowship of any, feathered or un- 
feathered, who may be to be found; but gener- 
ally speaking persons of congenial dispositions, 
characters and pursuits, as they assimilate best, 
are found in each other's company, and the 
reason is obvious. Geese and crows, owls and 
peacocks, ducks and canary birds, from neces- 
sity as well as choice, are led divers ways by their 
divers wants and habits. . . . Whenever various 
animals or men of sundry sorts are by peculiar 
circumstances brought together, as in a me- 
nagerie, how is it with them ? Why, the cackling 
and the cawing, the quacking and the hissing, 
the talking and the prating, the confused din of 
discordant tongues make it plain that the con- 
vention is unnatural and compulsory, and that 
like the individuals mentioned in the Acts, 
* When they are let go, they will return to their 
own company,' and then only is it seen, when 
men are really at liberty to choose their company, 
what company it is they really choose." — 
Jefferys Taylor, a.d. 1827, OldEnglish Sayings. 

" Like to like. Gold is found in veins, pockets 
and places. Trees and plants grow in clumps and 

Birds of a Feather Flock Together 133 

'openings.' Menhaden swim in schools. Birds 
of a feather flock together. In pursuance of this 
universal law we should expect to find men drift- 
ing into groups as determined by natural affilia- 
tions and propensities. Nor are we disappointed 
in this. The three sons of Noah, going out from 
Ararat to populate the world, pursue their several 
ways and produce three distinct races of men. 
These races in turn are subdivided into nations, 
which assume their separate and distinct places 
in history." — David J. Burrell, a.d. 1844, . . . 
An Experiment in Church Union, 

"Let the great seek out the great 
While we, the poor, accept our fate. " 

Malay Folk Rhyme. 

variant proverbs 

A, bird of the same feather. (English). 

A dove with a dove, a goose with a goose ; for things of the 

same species always go together. (Persian). 
A jackdaw always sits near a jackdaw. (Greek). 
Birds of a feather flock together and so with men — ^like to 

like. (Hebrew). 
Birds of one feather are often together. (Irish-Ulster). 
Birds of one feather flying together. (Irish-Ulster). 
Birds of the same kind fly together — ^pigeon with pigeon 

and hawk with hawk. (Persian). 
Each bird draws to its flock. (Gaelic). 
Every bird goes with its own flock. (Irish-Ulster). 
Every sheep with its fellow. (Spanish). 
It is one of its own family that a bird roosts with. (Ashanti). 
Pigeon with pigeon, hawk with hawk. (Persian). 
Where geese are, will goslings be. (Gaelic). 

134 Proverbs Annotated 


A bully fights with his peers, not with the grandees. (Oji). 

A fly to a fly. (Telugu). 

All gems in one place, all the snails in another. (Telugu). 

A man is known by the company he keeps. (English). 

Blood is thicker than water. (English). 

Chicken hawk nebber bniP he nes' wid ground dove. 

(British Guiana). 
Common oysters are in one spot and pearl oysters in 

another. (Telugu). 
Go nine ridges and nine furrows to (assist) your own people 

than you would to the stranger. (Irish). 
He that walketh with the virtuous is one of them. (Eng- 
Like a black faced villain joining an oily legged sinner. 

Like packsaddle like quilt. (Telugu). 
Likeness is the mother of love. (Greek). 
Like to like. (English). 
Like to like the world over. (Hebrew). 
No worm-eaten bean remains without finding a half blind 

measure. (Arabian). 
One camel kneels in place of another. (Arabian). 
One saint knows another. (Hindustani). 
One with a shaved head should go to a village of shaved 

heads. (Marathi). 
Set a thief to catch a thief. (English). 
The degenerate palm goes among the unfruitful reeds. 

The good seek the good and the evil the evil. (English). 
They are hornbills, we are sparrows, how can we possibly 

fly in the same flock? (Malayan). 
Those who resemble each other assemble with each other. 

When the fiend goes to the Sabbat, he lodges with the 

sorcerer — i.e. When the devil goes to customs, he 

stays with wizards and witches. (Oji). 

Birds of a Feather Flock Together 135 


A Babham, a dog and a bhat are always at variance with 

their own caste. (Behar). 
Babhams, dogs and bards are always at variance with their 

own caste. (Behar). 
Babhams, dogs and elephants cdn never agree with their 

own kind. (Behar). 
Two birds of prey do not keep company with each other. 

Two nightingales do not perch on one bow. (Osmanli). 
Two of a trade seldom agree. (English, Spanish). 
Two proud men cannot ride on one ass. (English). 
Two rope dancers do not play on one rope. (Osmanli). 


This phrase is used both in the sense of "One 
way or another" and "By fair means or foul." 
Its origin like most folk sayings is hidden in 

There are no less than six different sources 
from which it is said to have been derived. They 
are as follows : 

First — In olden times men were accustomed to 
see in the shepherd's crook an emblem of Christ's 
beneficent watchful care over His church, for 
did not the religious pictures represent the Good 
Shepherd as holding one in His hand ? They also 
saw in the hook held by Satan, with which he was 
represented in many of the pictures, as dragging 
men down to the flames of hell, an emblem of the 
adversary's pitiless malignity and cruel purpose. 
It was natural therefore to speak of human 
destiny as settled "by hook or by crook." 

Second — After the great fire in London, 1666, 
which obliterated most landmarks and led to 
many lawsuits for the purpose of determining 
the boundaries of land holdings, two wise and 
experienced surveyors were appointed to assist 
in fixing the rights of claimants. One, it was 

By Hook or By Crook 137 

said, was named Hook and the other Crook. 
Thus it came to pass that the matter of boundary 
was settled "by Hook or by Crook." 

Third — When Waterford harbor was invaded 
by the ships of Strongbow in 11 72 the com- 
mander saw on one side of the town a tower that 
was known as "The Tower of Hook," Hook being 
the name given to the section where it stood. 
On the other side of the town he saw a church 
that was known as "The Church of Crook" — 
Crook being the name of the other section; so 
he declared that the town must be taken either 
"by Hook or by Crook." 

Mr. Eliezer Edwards tells us that " In Marsh's 
Library, Dublin, is a manuscript entitled Annals 
HibernicB, written in the seventeenth century by 
Dudley Loftus, a descendant of Adam Loftus, 
Archbishop of Armagh. The following extract 
gives a feasible account of the origin of this 
popular saying: '1172 King Henry the 2nd 
landed in Ireland this year, on St. Luke's eve at 
a place in the bay of Waterford beyond the fort 
of Duncannon on Munster syde, at a place called 
Ye Crook over agt the Tower of Ye Hook; 
whence arose the proverbe to gayne a thing by 
Hook or by Crook; it being safe to gayne land in 
one of those places where the winde drives from 
the other.'" 

Fourth — As thieves often used a hook to pos- 
sess themselves of plunder and bishops held a 
crook in their hand as a crosier, it became the 

138 Proverbs Annotated 

custom in olden times to speak of accomplishing 
one's purposes by foul means or by fair or "by 
hook or by crook"; hence we find French ren- 
dering of the phrase — "Either with a thief's 
hook or a bishop's crook." 

Fifth — In the reign of Charles I (162 5- 1649), 
there were two lawyers known by the name of 
Judge Hooke and Judge Crooke. Their legal 
standing, professional prominence and the simi- 
larity of their names gave rise to the saying that 
matters would be settled either "by Hooke or by 

Sixth — The phrase refers to an old English 
law regarding the rights of the poor in securing 
fuel from the wooded lands adjacent to their 
homes. They were permitted to carry dead 
wood, stumps, leaves and rubbish from private 
lands for use as fuel without asking for the 
owner's consent, provided they did not use either 
an axe or a saw. The law only allowed them to 
secure all that they could "by hook or by 
crook," that is, by the use of hooked poles known 
as "crook-lugs," with which dead branches could 
be pulled down from the trees, or by sickles, 
known as crooks, with which low brush could be 

This last derivation of the phrase may be 
considered the most reliable. 

"Dynmure Wood was even open and common 
To the . . . inhabitants of Bodmin ... to bear 
away upon their backs a burden of lop, hook, 

By Hook or By Crook 139 

crook, and bag wood." — Bodmin Register, a.d. 


"Nor wyll (they) suffre this boke 
By hoke ne by croke 
Prynted for to be. " 
John Skelton, circa, a.d. 1460-1529, Colyn Cloute. 

"Come, go we hence, friend! (quoth I to my mate) — 
And now will I make a cross on this gate. 
And I (quoth he) cross thee quite out of my book 
Since thou art cross failed; avail, unhappy hook! 
By hook or crook nought could I win there; men say: 
He that cometh every day, shall have a cockney; 
He that cometh now and then shall have a fat hen. " 
John Heywood, a.d. 1497-1580. 

" Thereafter all that mucky pelfe he tooke. 
The spoils of people evil gotten good, 
The which her soil had scrap't by hooke and crooke. 
And burning all to ashes pour *d it down the brooke. " 
Edmund Spenser, a.d. i 553-1 599, Faerie Queene. 

" Throughe thicke and thin, both over banck and bush. 
In hope her to attaine by hooke or crooke. " 

Edmund Spenser, Faerie Queene. 

" When he, who had so lately sack'd. The enemy had done 
the fact. 

Had rifled all his pokes and fobs 
Of gimcracks, whims, and jiggumbobs, 
Which he by hook, or crook, had gather'd, 
And for his own inventions father 'd: 
And when they should, at jail delivered. 
Unriddle one another's thievery. " 

Samuel Butler, a.d. 1612-1680, Hudihras. 

"I have a communication from a correspon- 
dent, who remarks : — The story about the min- 

140 Proverbs Annotated 

ister, and his favorite theme, 'The Broken 
Covenant,* reminds me of one respecting another 
minister whose staple topics of discourse were, 
'Justification, Adoption, and Sanctification.' 
Into every sermon he preached, he managed,by 
hook or by crook, to force these three heads, so , 
that his general method of handling every text 
was not so much expositio as imposition — Dean 
Edward B. B. Ramsay, a.d. i 793-1 872. 


By good means or bad. (Latin). 

Either by might or by slight. (English) . 

Either with the thief's hook or the bishop's crook. 

He has made every effort with horse and with dog — i.e. 

He has tried every way, by hook or by crook. (Os- 



This saying is so trite that it can scarcely be 
called a proverb, yet, like, "Every man has his 
faults" and "Fortune has wings," it has been 
repeated for generations as a statement of fact, 
challenging contradiction. Some regard con- 
sistency in speech and conduct as indicative of 
stubbornness or an evidence of arrested intel- 
lectual development, but it is rather a sign of 
loyalty to oneself, of standing firmly by one's 
life purpose, and shows itself by an unwavering 
and continued effort to live up to one's ideals. 
This may involve at times a course of action 
that is apparently divergent from that which 
went before. Lange in writing of divine con- 
sistency says that it does not lie in God's ** carry- 
ing out the abstract decrees of His own will, 
inflexibly and in an exact direction, but in 
His remaining like Himself, and therefore in 
His even assuming a different position in re- 
lation to the changed positions of man; yet 
this is, of course, in harmony with the con- 
sistency of the principles established and real- 
ized by Him." So htunan consistency does 
not lie in holding to a fixed line of procedure 
in the face of changed conditions and greater 

142 Proverbs Annotated 

knowledge, but rather in holding resolutely to 
one's ideals. 

It is not surprising that consistency should be 
called a jewel. It has been common for ages to 
speak of various virtues as jewels and loyalty t>o 
oneself is one of the greatest virtues. 

While there has been considerable discussion 
regarding the authorship of the phrase no one 
has been able to discover from whence it came. 
It was thought at one time to have been taken 
from some verses entitled Jolly Rohyn Rough- 
head or The Plowman's Philosophy. The Dow- 
ager Countess of Drumlawrigg is said to have 
given it to a man by the name of Murtagh, who 
in the year 1754 published it in a collection of 
English and Scotch Ballads. But Murtagh is 
evidently a myth as no trace of him can be found 
and as to the "ancient " Ballad of Jolly Robbyn, 
it did not appear in print till 1867 when it was 
published in an American journal. The third 
verse that is said to contain the proverb is as 

" Tush! tush! my lassie, such thoughts resigne, 
Comparisons are cruele : 
Fine pictures suit in frames as fine 
Consistencie a Jewell. 
For thee and me coarse cloathes are best 
Rude folks in homelye raiment drest 
Wife Joan and goodman Robyn." 

"Thou therefore that teachest another, teach- 
est thou not thyself? Thou that preachest a 

Consistency, Thou Art a Jewel 143 

man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou 
that sayest a man should not commit adultery, 
dost thou commit adultery? Thou that abhor- 
rest idols, dost thou rob temples? Thou who 
gloriest in the law, through thy transgression 
of the law, dishonorest thou God? — Romans, 

"A young hound started a hare, snapping at 
her as he ran in pursuit as though he intended to 
kill her, then he let her run and jumped around 
her as though he wished to play. At last the 
hare wearied with his behavior said, * I wish that 
you would show your true self. If you are my 
friend why do you snap at me? If you are my 
enemy why do you seek to play with me.*"— 


"But whatsoever I have merited, either in my 
mind or in my means, need, I am sure, I have 
received none ; unless experience be a jewell that 
I have purchased at an infinite rate." — ^William 
Shakespeare, a.d. 1564-1616, Merry Wives of 

"As the sails of a ship, when they are spread 
and swollen, and the way that the ship makes, 
shows me the wind, where it is, though the wind 
itself be an invisible thing, so thy actions to- 
morrow, and the life thou leadest all the year, 
will show me with what mind thou comest to the 
Sacrament today, though only God, and not I, 
can see thy mind." — John Donne, a.d. 1573- 

144 Proverbs Annotated 

"Thou callest thyself Christian; but we ques- 
tion whether thou hast a right to the title; thy 
conduct is too contrary to that sacred name, 
which is too holy to be written on a rotten post." 
— ^William Gurnall, a.d. 1616-1679. 

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of 
little minds, adored by little statesmen and 
philosophers and divines. With consistency a 
great soul has simply nothing to do. He may 
as well concern himself with his shadow on the 
wall. Speak what you think now in hard words 
and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in 
hard words again, though it contradict every- 
thing you said today." — Ralph Waldo Emer- 
son, A.D. 1803-1882, Self Reliance. 

"One of the broadest and best defined experi- 
ences that passed under my observation and was 
imprinted on my memory in early youth was that 
of a family whose father stood high above all his 
neighbors in religious profession and gifts, and 
yet returned from market drunk as often as he 
had the means." — William Arnot, a.d. 1806- 
1875, Illustrations of the Book of Proverbs. 

"Gineral C is a areffle smart man; 

He's ben on all sides that give places or pelf; 
But consistency still waz a part of his plan, — 
He's ben true to one party — an* that is himself; — 
So John P 
Robinson he 
Sez he shall vote for Gineral C." 

James Russell Lowell, a.d. 1819-1891, 

Biglow Papers. 

Consistency, Thou Art a Jewel 145 

"Alas! We cannot think that these orientals 
live as wisely as they talk. Their words are 
sententious, brilliant, few — their lives are lazy, 
aimless, monotonous. O consistency thou art a 
Jewell." — The Home, April, 1859. 


A clean cheese in a dirty cheese-vat. (Welsh). 

Consistency of action is the measure of greatness. 

His words accord not with his acts. (Osmanli). 

Like a chameleon, he changes from color to color. (Os- 

The government official while laughing at the same time 
bites. (Osmanli). 

The healthy seeking a doctor. (Welsh). 

The mouth of a blackbird with the request of a wolf. 

There are words that do not agree with words. (Osmanli) . 

The voice of a lamb with the heart of a wolf. (Welsh) . 

To keep a dog and bark yourself. (Welsh). 

What! Is it for an evil doer to teach religious precepts? 

What is this fast? What is this pickled cabbage? Why 
do you talk about fasting while eating? (Osmanli) . 




Day-dreams are not prophecies, neither are 
hopes and fancies harbingers of success. 

The origin of this proverb though unknown 
may have arisen from ^Esop's fable of The Milk- 
maid and Her Pail which is as follows : 

"A farmer's daughter had been out to milk 
the cows and was returning to the dairy carrying 
her pail of milk upon her head. As she walked 
along, she fell a-musing after this fashion : * The 
milk in this pail will provide me with cream 
which I will make into butter and take to market 
to sell. With the money I will buy a number of 
eggs and these when hatched will produce 
chickens and by and by I shall have quite a large 
poultry yard. Then I shall sell some of my fowls 
and with the money which they will bring in I 
will buy myself a new gown, which I shall wear 
when I go to the fair, and all the young fellows 
will admire it and come and make love to me, 
but I shall toss my head and have nothing to 
say to them.' Forgetting all about the pail 
and suiting the action to the word, she tossed 
her head. Down went the pail, all the milk 
was spilled and all her fine castles in the air 

Do Not Count Your Chickens 147 

vanished in a moment." — V. S. Vernon Jones' 

There are two stories closely resembling ^sop's 
fable. One is an Indian tale of The Poor Man 
and the Oil Jar, and the other an Arabian Nights' 
tale of Barber's Story of his Fifth Brother, or 
El-Feshshar's Day-dream which is believed to 
have been derived from an Indian fable of re- 
motest antiquity found in the Haetopades of 

The first tale is that of a man who was hired to 
carry a jar of oil which he placed on his head 
according to custom and started. As he went on 
his journey he speculated in his mind as to what 
he would do with the money that he would re- 
ceive for his errand. " For carrying this oil," he 
said to himself, " I will get four annas with which 
I will buy a hen, then I will sell the chickens that 
come from the eggs that the hen lays and pur- 
chase a herd of goats. From the sale of the goats 
and their kids I will receive enough to buy a cow, 
which I can sell with their calves and so obtain 
a sum of money which will enable me to purchase 
a herd of buffaloes. Then I can marry and have 
children who will say * Father dear, come and eat 
your meal,' but I will say, 'No, no!' " Shaking 
his head to emphasize his refusal he shook the 
jar of oil and it fell at his feet spilling its contents. 

The other story is of a man who took his in- 
heritance of a hundred pieces of silver and pur- 
chased a basket of glassware which he placed 

148 Proverbs Annotated 

on a large tray and displayed it for sale. Then 
he leaned against a wall and began to speculate 
in his mind what he would do with the money he 
received from the purchaser of his goods. Let- 
ting his thoughts run on he imagined that he 
would buy more glassware and sell it ; with the 
proceeds he would buy another supply and so on 
until he had acquired great wealth. Then he 
would branch out into other lines of trade and 
live in a fine house and have memlooks and 
horses with gilded saddles and finally marry the 
daughter of the chief Wezeer and becoming 
angry at her he would thrust out his foot at her, 
and to show himself how he would thus spurn her 
he kicked and in kicking overturned his tray of 
glassware and broke all the pieces. 

**Many count their chickens before they are 
hatched ; and where they expect bacon meet with 
broken bones." — Miguel de Cervantes Sa- 
AVEDRA, A.D. 1547-1616, Don Quixote. 

*' Neither ought we to reckon our eggs before 
they are lay'd. We may count our poultry when 
we have them, well and good, to keep the tale of 
'em, 'tis prudent housewifery, but we ought not 
to compute upon them in the shell. 'Tis not 
common discretion to crack of our chickens, to 
talk of our young turkeys, and to feed ourselves 
with the fancy of our goslins or cygnets, before 
they are hatch'd. And yet this is no more than 
what thousands of people do every day in other 

Do Not Cotuit Your Chickens 149 

affairs of their lives." — Oswald Dykes, a.d. 
1707, Moral Reflections. 

"Reckoning your chickens before they are 
hatched. Not a very agreeable occupation but 
one that is quite inevitable as long as there are 
sanguine temperaments, speculators and calcula- 
tors — in fact, as long as there is hope in the world. 
The unwise part of the performance is, simply, 
when no sufficient care has been taken to procure 
sound eggs, and to give attention to the hen who 
is patiently laboring at the hatching." — House- 
hold Words, July 7, 1852. 


Bargaining for fish that is in the water. (Osmanli). 

Before the bear be struck (slain) his skin is not sold. 

Boil not the pap before the child is bom. (English). 

Calculating at home on the fish in the sea. (Marathi). 

Catch the bear before you sell his skin. (English). 

Chickens are slow in coming from tmlaid eggs. (German). 

Count not four except you have them in a wallet. (Eng- 

Dinna gut your fish till you get them. (Scotch). 

Do not bless the fish till it gets to land. (Irish). 

Do not build the sty before the litter comes. (Irish). 

Do not sell the hide before you have caught the bear. 
(Dutch, Italian). 

Do not sell the hide before you have caught the fox. 

Do not speak ill of the year until it be past. (Spanish). 

Don't cry " chue " to the chick till it be out of the egg. 
(Italian, Gaelic). 

Don't sell the skin before the bear is shot. (Dutch). 

150 Proverbs Annotated 

Don't cry " Herring " until they are in the net. (Dutch). 

Don't cry " Dried Fish " before they are caught. (Italian) . 

Don't reckon your eggs before they are laid. (Italian). 

Don't skin the deer till you get it. (Gaelic). 

Eating sweet-meats of fancy. (Kumaun, Garhwal). 

Estimating the value of the skin before you catch the bad- 
ger. (Japanese). 

First catch your hare. (English). 

Grass at a distance looks thick. (Bengalese). 

He gave a name to an unborn child. (Telugu). 

He gives away the deer before it is caught. (Persian). 

He that lives on hope will die fasting. (English). 

He that waits for dead men's shoes may go long barefoot. 

Hoi' de cow befo' you bargain fo' sell de beef. (British 

It is ill waiting for dead men's shoes. (English). 

Like the man who went stooping down from the place 
where he intended to hang the lamp before he built 
the house. (Bengalese). 

Make not your sauce until you have caught your fish. 

Na 'pread table clot' befo' pat done bile. (British Guiana). 

Never count the fish till they come out of the sea. (Irish, 

Never praise a ford till you are over. (English). 

Of imcut grass there are nine hundred bimdles. (Assa- 

One must catch the bear before he draws a ring through 
its nose. (German). 

One must not make the crib before the calf is bom. 

Rubbing the lips with oil while the jack fruit is still on the 

When jack fruit, which is a glutinous fruit, is eaten 
without putting oil on the lips it sticks and pro- 
duces sores. (Assamese.) 

Do Not Count Your Chickens 151 

Sell not the bear skin before you have caught him. (Eng- 
lish, German, French, Italian, Dutch). 
Sune enough to cry " Chick " when it*s out of the shell. 

The child is not bom and yet it is called " Moozuffur " — i.e. 

victorious. (Persian, Hindustani). 
The cow had not been slaughtered, yet he had put the 

soup tureen on his head for it. (Pashto). 
The father is not yet bom, but the son has taken his stand 


This is a riddle: The father represents fire; the son, 

smoke. As smoke generally precedes fire, the 

son in the proverb is said to come before the 

father. (Behar). 

The son is not yet bom, but a beat of the dmm proclaims 

the event beforehand. 
Similar to above. See also "While the father was 
still in the womb the son went to a wedding 
party." (Behar). 
The trees in the orchard have not yet been planted, but 

the woodworms have settled down there beforehand. 

They don't sell the duiker walking in the bush. (Ibo). 
To build castles in the air. (English) . 
To celebrate the triumph before the victory. (Latin). 
To grind peppers for a bird on the wing. (Malayan). 
To sell the bird in the bush. (Italian). 
To take oflE one's boots before seeing the water. (Persian). 
Tmsting to the cloud to cut open the tank. (Telugu). 
Twist a chain for the boy who is yet in the womb. (Ku- 

maun, Garhwal). 
Tying beads aroimd an unbom child. (Telugu). 
Unlaid eggs are uncertam chickens. (German, Dutch). 
Wait till the hare's in the pot before you talk. (Mauritius 

We have no son and yet are giving him a name. (Spanish). 

152 Proverbs Annotated 

While the child is still in the womb, the son is named 

Somalingam. (Telugu). 
While the cotton crop was still in the field he said, ^* Three 
cubits for Poli and six for me " — i.e. Three cubits of 
cloth for my cousin and six for me. 

Poli is a girl's name and here stands for cousin. 
While the father is still in the womb, the son went to a 
wedding party. 

Like the proverb — " The father is not yet born but 
the son has taken his stand behind." This is a 
kind of riddle. The father represents the seed of 
the Safflower still in the pod while the son re- 
presents the Safflower dye. (Behar). 
Ye're cawking the claith ere the wab be in the loom. 

Ye*re like the miller's dog; ye lick your lips ere the pock is 

opened. (Scotch). 
Ye must not sell the bear skin before the bear is killed. 

(English, German, French, Italian, Dutch). 
You cannot contract for the fish in the sea. (Tiu*kish). 

338 • 

Parents are conceited over their children; men 
love their own country, district and town. 

It is natural that in forming this proverb, re- 
ference should have been made to geese and 
swans. The two birds have many things in 
common, yet they are not held in the same re- 
spect. Geese are poor men's possessions while 
swans are seldom seen save in lakes belonging to 
parks and gardens. 

In olden times the swan was called a royal bird 
for the sovereigns of England appropriated those 
that had strayed from their proper estates, so 
that it became the custom for those in possession 
to estabHsh a prior claim by marking the beaks 
of their birds. 

Geese belonged to the barnyards and adjacent 
pools or ponds, were good for food and for prog- 
nosticating the approach of foul weather, while 
swans were held to be sacred. Men looked at 
their graceful forms and movements as they 
floated on the water and reverently regarded 
them as birds of prophecy, to be sheltered and 
watched over with the greatest care so as to be 
ready for use in case of need in the taking of 

154 Proverbs Annotated 

oaths and for conjuring. Their feathers were 
thought to be potent as talismans and their song 
never heard save when they were about to 
die. No bird, with the possible exception of 
the eagle, has been more frequently used in 
heraldry, and legends and fairy stories are 
abundant in which people have been tempo- 
rarily changed to swans. "It may be," says 
Charles de Kay (a.d. 1848-) ''that the great 
river Elbe that springs from the 'sea coast' 
of Bohemia splits the realms of Saxony and 
Prussia in two, and reaches ocean in the ancient 
free commonwealth of Hamburg, was first named 
from the magic bird whose name was the same 
as elf." 

A child's book entitled Peter Prim's Pride, 
pubHshed in 1810, contained a picture of a 
mother fondly patting the chin of a stubbed 
nose daughter, while another ill kept child 
stood near awaiting parental approval. Be- 
neath the picture was inscribed the old pro- 
verbial saying: "Every crow thinks her own 
young whitest." 

Two thousand and more years ago the wise 
fabulist told a story of an argument between a 
sow and a dog in which the sow claimed that its 
children were superior to those of the dog be- 
cause they could see at birth, whereas the chil- 
dren of his opponent were born blind. 

There is a phrase in common use that seems to 
affirm an opposite truth, for it is said, "All his 

Every Man Thinks His Geese Swans 155 

swans are geese"; but the contradiction is only 
apparent for the phrase is rarely, if ever, used 
in referring to children. Its application is 
generally confined to boasters whose claims 
cannot be substantiated. The boaster would 
have others believe that his tales are as true 
and wonderful as birds in the king's garden, 
whereas they are more like common geese than 
royal swans. 

"Jupiter issued a proclamation to all the 
beasts, and offered a prize to one who, in his judg- 
ment, produced the most beautiful offspring. 
Among the rest came the monkey carrying a 
baby monkey in her arms, a hairless, flat nosed 
little fright. When they saw it, the gods all 
burst into peal on peal of laughter, but the mon- 
key hugged her little one to her and said, ' Jupi- 
ter may give the prize to whomsoever he likes 
but I shall always think my baby the most 
beautiful of them all.'" — ^sop, Before b.c. 
561, V, S. Vernon Jones' Translation, 

"At this same ancient feast of Capulet's 
Sups the fair Rosaline whom thou so lovest, 
With all the admired beauties of Verona: 
Go thither, and with unattainted eye 
Compare her face with some that I shall show, 
And I will make thee think thy swan a crow. " 
William Shakespeare, a.d. 1564-16 16, 

Romeo and Juliet. 

"By'r lady, friends! (quoth I), this maketh a show, 
To show you more unnatural than the crow; 

156 Proverbs Annotated 

The crow thinketh her own birds fairest in the wood, 
But by your words (except I wrong understood), 
Each other's birds or jewels, ye do weigh 
Above your own. " 

John Heywood, a.d. 1497-1580, 
A Dialogue. 
"This proverb intimates that an inbred phil- 
anty runs through the whole race of fiesh and 
blood, and that self-love is the mother of vanity, 
pride and mistake. It turns a man's geese into 
swans, his dunghill poultry into pheasants and 
his lambs into venison. It blinds the under- 
standing, perverts the judgment, depraves the 
reason of the otherwise most modest distinguish- 
ers of truth and falsity. It makes a man so fondly 
conceited of himself, that he prefers his own art 
for its excellency, his own skill for its perfection, 
his own compositions for their wit and his own 
productions for their beauty. It makes even his 
vices seem to him virtues, and his deformities 
beauties; for so every crow thinks her own bird 
fairest, though never so black and ugly." — 
Nathan Bailey, a.d. 1721, Diverse Proverbs, 


A son, although full of faults, is perfect in his father's eyes. 

A son, although he is a lump of earth (worthless) still is the 

light of the eyes to his parents. (Persian). 
Black as the raven, he thinks his children fair. (Gaelic). 
Black is the berry but sweet, black is my lassie but bonnie. 

Ebery John Crow t'inks he own picknie white. (British 


Every Man Thinks His Geese Swans 157 

Ebery crow cry fo* he own calf. (British Guiana). 

Every cow licks her own calf. (Serbian). 

Every crow thinks her own birds whitest. (Scotch). 

Every crow thinks her own nestlings the fairest. (English) . 

Every man thinks his own chickens are the best. (Eng- 

Every monkey thinks its young ones pretty. (Tamil, 
Louisiana Creole). 

Every mother's child is handsome. (German). 

Every mother thinks it is on her own child the stm rises. 

Every owl thinks all her children the fairest. (Danish). 

Every owl thinks her young ones beautiful. (English). 

Fowl tread 'pon he chicken, but he no tread haad. (Brit- 
ish Guiana). 

If they (my children) were a thousand, they would be 
dearer than my eyes. (Arabian). 

If our child squints, our neighbor's child has a cast in both 
eyes. (Livonian). 

nka man thinks his ain craw blackest. (Scotch). 

I love my dear one were he a black slave. (Syrian) . 

Monkey never says its young are ugly. (Trinidad Creole) . 

My heart is for my child and my child's heart is for a stone. 

My own heart (I will sacrifice) rather than my children. 
(West African). 

My own son is a son, a stranger's good for nothing. (Hin- 

No ape but swears he has the handsomest children. 
(English, German). 

Our own child is tender, another's is (as tough as) leather. 

Sweepings, but from our own field; halt and lame, but our 
own child — hence valuable. (Marathi). 

The beetle is a beauty in the eyes of its mother. (Arabian, 

The beetle is a bride in the arms of its mother. (Arabian) . 

158 Proverbs Annotated 

The crow likes her greedy blue chick. (Gaelic). 
The crow's chick is dear to the crow. (Telugu). 
The crow thinketh her own birds fairest in the wood. 

The crow thinks her own ghastly chick a beauty. (Gaelic) . 
The love of the ghoul is for his own son. (Syrian). 
The monkey is a gazelle in the eyes of his mother. (Arabic, 

The porcupine says, " Oh, my soft little son, softer than 

butter," and the crow says, " My son, whiter than 

muslin." (Pashto). 
The raven always thinks that her young ones are whitest. 

The raven thinks her own bird the prettiest bird in the 

wood. (Irish-Famey). 
The scald crow thinks her daughter is the prettiest bird in 

the wood. (Irish-Farney). 
They asked the raven, " Who is the beautiful?" " My 

little ones," he said. (Osmanli). 
Though but a young crow, it is golden to its mother. 

Though earthen, one's own child is precious. (Tamil). 
To everyone his own son appears the most beautiful. 

To the eye of a crow, its young one has milk white feathers. 

Whether it is black, or dun, or brown; it is to her own kid 

the goat gives all her affection. (Gaelic). 


(Personal Preference) 
Every bird admires (loves) its own nest. (Osmanli). 
Every bird thinks her own family the nicest in the world. 

Every bird thinks its own nest beautiful. (Italian). 
Everybody thinks his own cuckoo sings better than 

another's nightingale. (German). 
Every man thinks his own copper gold. (German, Danish) . 

Every Man Thinks His Geese Swans 159 

Every man thinks his own owl a falcon. (German, Dutch) . 

Every one's own property is precious to himself. (Osmanli). 

Every peddler praises his own needles. (Spanish, Por- 

Every peddler praises his pot and more if it is cracked. 
(Spanish, Italian). 

Every potter vaimts his own pot. (French). 

My own crow (is better) than the nightingale of other folk. 

No man calls his own dowie sour. 

Dowie is a drink made from curdled milk, water 
and herbs. (Syrian). 

The hen he has caught has four legs. (Telugu). 

The beloved is the object that thou lovest— were it even a 
monkey. (Arabian). 

To everyone, what belongs to himself, is beautiful. 
(Modem Greek). 


He who talks the most does the least. 

The proverb is said to have been derived from 
an old miracle play or ancient "mystery," in 
which Nabal, the churlish Carmelite (I Sam. 
25 : 2, 5) was represented as shearing sheep 
while the devil, standing near, was imitating 
him by shearing a hog that loudly protests over 
the work. A proverb predating the one now in 
use informs us that the present rendering is a 
repetition of the devil's statement at the time he 
was engaged in his useless task. It is given thus : 
"Great cry and Httle wool, as the devil said 
when he sheared the hog." The thought of the 
proverb was in the mind of JEsop who lived 
several centuries after Nabal, when he told the 
story of the mountain in labor that brought forth 
a mouse. John Fortescue who wrote at the time 
the miracle plays were in vogue in England 
quoted the saying thus: "Moche Crye and no 
WuU" — but Cervantes who published his Don 
Quixote when the "mysteries" were on the wane 
and Samuel Butler in his Hudibras a little later 
gave the modem rendering. 

Great Cry but Little Wool i6i 

Still another origin has suggested itself to 
some students, by the Scotch form, "Mair 
whistle than wo* quo' the soutar when he sheared 
the sow." Soughtar being the Scotch word for 
shoemaker, the phrase is said to have come from 
the shoemaker's use of bristles for flexible needles 
in sewing. 

While the proverb may have been in use long 
before the miracle plays of the middle ages, there 
is more probability of its having been derived 
from them than from the Scotch form as sug- 

'"Let me tell you, friend,' quoth the squire of 
the wood, 'that you are out in your politics; 
for these island-governments bring more cost 
than worship ; there is a great cry but little wool ; 
the best will bring more trouble and care than 
they are worth and those that take them on their 
shoulders are ready to sink under them.'" — 
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, a.d. 1547- 
161 6, Don Quixote. 

"A bit of homely advice, quaintly put, is 
found in this — ' Do not drive black hogs at night. ' 
' Much cry and no wool * is the result of shearing 
swine, a hopeless task. The adage is often met 
with in Fortescue's treatise on Absolute and Lim- 
ited Monarchy y written over four hundred years 
ago. We find a reference to 'the man that 
shery'd his hogge, moch crye and no wull.' In 
a book published in 1597 it runs: 'Of the shear- 

1 62 Proverbs Annotated 

ing hoggest there is great crie for so little woole' 
and we find the saying again in Hudihras and 
many other books, and in old plays." — F. Ed- 
ward HULME, A.D. 1 842-1 909. 


As the devil said when he clipped the sow. (Scotch). 
Great cry and little wool, as the man said when he sheared 

the sow. (Italian). 
Great cry and little wool, quoth the devil, when he sheared 

his hogs. (English). 
Great cry but little wool, as the fellow said when he shore 

his hogs. (English). 
Great noise for a little wool. (Irish-Ulster). 
Mair whistle than wo*, quo* the soutar, when he sheared 

the sow. (Scotch). 
Much cry and httle wool, said the fool as he sheared the 

pig. (German, Dutch). 
Muckle din and little *oo. (Scotch). 


A farthing's worth of peas and the sound of grinding all 

night. (Hindustani). 
A lofty shop, but the sweetmeats sold there are tasteless. 

Great boaster little doer. (French). 
Great boast small roast. (English, Dutch). 
Great cries but not a grain in the heap. (Telugu). 
Great noise and little hurt. (Gaelic). 
Great smoke little roast. (Italian). 
Great talkers are little doers. (French, Dutch). 
Great vaunters, little doers. (French). 
Great words but small measm^e. (Telugu). 
His words leap over forts, his foot does not cross the 

threshold. (Telugu). 
I hear the noise of the mill but see no flour. (Persian). 

Great Cry but Little Wool 163 

Look for a raven and shear its wool. (Arabian) . 

Loud cackle, little egg. (Gaelic). 

Mickle ado and little help. (Scotch). 

More bustle than work. (Guernsey). 

Much ado about nothing. (English). 

Much bruit, little fruit. (English). 

Much talk, little work. (Dutch). 

Muckle whistlin* for little red Ian*. (Scotch). 

Selling and buying and nothing upon the board. (Arabian) . 

Small mouth, big words. (Pashto). 

The cow is greater than the milking. (Gaelic) . 

The mountain is in labor and will bring forth a mouse. 

The noise is greater than the nuts. (English). 
There is more noise than nuts to crack. (Spanish). 
There is more talk than trouble. (English). 
Would you shear a donkey for wool? (Latin). 
Your windmill dwindles into a nut-crack. (Latin). 


If you cannot have what you want take what 
you can get. A small benefit is better than no 
benefit at all. 

Nothing is known of the circumstances under 
which this saying was first used. It may have 
been an expression repeated in time of famine 
when food was scarce and when small portions 
were distributed among the people. 

It is often true that when one cannot obtain 
all that he desires it is wise to accept a portion. 
It is also true that half is better than the whole 
when a great sacrifice is required to secure all 
that is needed. 


A bad bush is better than the open field. (English). 

A blind mother-in-law is better than none at all. (Telugu). 

A blind uncle is better than no uncle. (Assamese). 

A little is bettah dan not'in*. (British Guiana). 

A man were better to be half blind than have both eyes 

out. (English). 
Bannocks (oat cakes) are better than nae bread. (Scotch). 
Better a bare foot than none. (English). 
Better a blind horse than an empty halter. (Dutch). 

Half a Loaf Is better Than No Bread 165 

Better a lame horse than an empty saddle. (German). 
Better a lean jade than an empty halter. (English, Scotch). 
Better a mouse m the pot than no flesh at all. (Scotch). 
Belter a poor horse than an empty stall. (Danish). 
Better are small fish than an empty dish. (English, Scotch, 

Better a wee bush than nae beild-shelter. (Scotch). 
Better coarse cloth than the naked thighs. (Danish). 
Better half a loaf than none at all. Better a little furniture 

than an empty house. (Danish). 
Better half an egg than an empty shell. (German, English, 

Better half an egg than toom doup — i.e. empty bottom of a 

shell. (Scotch). 
Better my hog dirty home than no hog at all. (English). 
Better one eye than stone blind. (German, Spanish). 
Better rags than nakedness. (Haytian). 
Better something than nothing. (German). 
Better straw than nothing. (Portuguese). 
Kuhl better than blindness — i.e. A sore eye is better 

than no eye at all. 

The word kuhl indicates a remedy for a diseased 
eye. It is better to use the remedy even though 
you have a sore eye than lose your sight. (Ara- 
Little better than none. (Arabian). 
Sma* fish are better than naine. (Scotch). 
The something is better than its want. (Arabian). 


Better lose the anchor than the whole ship. (Dutch). 
Better lose the saddle than the horse. (German, Italian). 
Better lose the wool than the sheep. (French, Portuguese). 
Better ride a lame horse than go afoot. (German). 
Better some of a pudding than none of a pie. (English). 
Chicken-hawk say, he can't get mamma, he tek picknie. 
(British Guiana). 

i66 Proverbs Annotated 

From the debtor accept even bran in payment. (Ancient 

If I have lost the ring, I still have the fingers. (Spanish, 

If you can't get tu'key, you mus' satisfy wid John Crow. 

(British Guiana). 
If you find even foturteen annas of lost money, it is well. 

It is better to lose than to lose more. (Spanish, Portu- 
Many see more with one eye than others with two. 

One day is better than sometimes a whole year. (English) . 
One foot is better than two crutches. (English). 
Them that canna get a peck must put up wi' a stimpart — i.e. 

A quarter of a peck. (Scotch). 
To whom a little is not sufficient to him nothing will be 

sufficient. (Modem Greek). 


Archbishop Whately (a.d. i 787-1 863), when 
quoting this proverb added the words, "but he 
who acts only on that principle is not an honest 

Some men are honest from principle, others 
are honest from motives of expediency. The 
proverb applies to the latter class. To them 
honesty is not a matter of character but of 
policy. They say with Mirabeau (a.d. 1749- 
1791), "We ought to want it (honesty) as the best 
means of getting rich." 

The wise fabulist taught the advantages of 
honesty in the story of a woodman who, while 
felling trees by a river, accidentally let his axe 
slip from his hand and fall into the water. Mer- 
cury appearing at the instant drew a golden axe 
from the stream and presented it to the wood- 
cutter in place of the axe that he had lost. "No, 
no!" exclaimed the man, "I cannot take that 
axe for it is not mine. The one I lost was made 
of iron and this is made of gold. " Mercury being 
pleased with the man's honesty, went into the 
river and recovered the axe that was lost and 
restored it to its owner in addition to which he 
gave him the golden one that he had first offered, 

i68 Proverbs Annotated 

as a reward for integrity of character. An ac- 
quaintance hearing of his friend's good fortune 
determined to try the same method of securing 
a golden axe and went to the river bank to chop 
trees. After chopping a short time he intention- 
ally let his axe slip from his grasp and fall into 
the water. Mercury at once appeared and 
offered to help him find his lost property. 
Drawing a golden axe from the river he showed it 
to the man who was so pleased at the apparent 
success of his scheme that he grasped for the 
treasure, exclaiming, "Yes, that's mine! that's 
mine ! " " Oh, no, " returned Mercury, ' ' That is 
not yours," and went away leaving the dishonest 
man's axe at the bottom of the river. 

"Providence," wrote Quintilian (a.d. 35?- 
100?) "has given to men this gift, that things 
which are honest are also the most advantage- 
ous," but centuries before the Roman critic 
gave expression to the teaching of the proverb 
King Solomon saw a stronger reason for honesty 
and declared that "A false balance is an abomina- 
tion of Jehovah, but a just weight is his delight." 
— Prov. II : I (See Prov. 20:23). 

As to the origin of the proverb: The claim 
has been advanced that it was first used in 
China and is found in the translation of the 
novel lu-Kiao-Li. However that may be the 
saying is of great antiquity and is found in 
many languages. 

On the fifth of April, 1797, a quaint and curious 

Honesty Is the Best Policy 169 

announcement appeared in the Worcester (Mass.) 
Spy. The advertiser, under the caption of 
*' Honesty is the best policy," stated that a cer- 
tain thief had stolen some fresh beef from his 
slaughter house, and that he wished the said 
thief would come forward in a gentlemanly 
like manner and settle for the same under 
penalty of being exposed and complimented by 
a warrant. 

"Do not consider anything for your interest 
which makes you break your word, quit your 
modesty, or incline you to any practice which will 
not bear the light, or look the world in the face." 
— ^Antoninus, a.d. i2I?-i8o. 

" I am an old cur at a crust, and can sleep dog- 
sleep when I list. I can look sharp as well as 
another, and let me alone to keep the cobwebs out 
of my eyes. I know where the shoe wrings me. 
I will know who and who is together. Honesty 
is the best policy, I will stick to that. The good 
shall have my hand and heart, but the bad 
neither foot nor fellowship." — Miguel de Cer- 
vantes, A.D. 1547-1616, Don Quixote. 

"It would be an unspeakable advantage, both 
to the public and private, if men would consider 
that great truth — that no man is wise or safe, 
but he that is honest." — Walter Raleigh, 
A.D. 1552-1618. 

"Man is his own star, and the soul that can 
Render an honest and perfect man, 

170 Proverbs Annotated 

Commands all light, all influence, all fate. 
Nothing to him falls early or too late, 
Our acts our angels are, or good or ill. 
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still." 
John Fletcher(?) a.d. 1576-1625, Honest Man's Fortune. 

"I would recommend our proverb to the re- 
flection of the great ; for 'tis pity that integrity 
and sincerity should be more in esteem among 
plebeians than among men of birth, honor and 
employment. However it mustn't be confined to 
any set of men, for every man in all parts of his 
life will find occasion for this instruction, and 
may observe that the saying is exactly true to 
whomsoever it be applied. 'Tis impossible that 
trick, artifice and fraud should have any lasting 
reputation in the world, while there is any virtue 
in it, and 'tis seldom that a knave carries his 
design so well off, but his own ill actions come 
home to him." — Samuel Palmer, a.d. 17 10, 
Moral Essays. 

" Men think there is no sin in that which there 
is money to be got by and, while it passes un- 
discovered, they cannot blame themselves for 
it; a blot is no blot till it is hit (Hos., 12: 7, 8) 
but they are not the less an abomination to God 
who will be the avenger of those who defraud 
their brethren." 

"Nothing is more pleasing to God than fair 
and honest dealing, nor more necessary to make 
us and our devotions acceptable to Him. A just 
weight is His delight. He Himself goes by a just 

Honesty Is the Best Policy 171 

weight, and holds the scale of judgment with an 
even hand and therefore is pleased with those 
that are herein followers of Him. A balance 
cheats, under pretence of doing right most ex- 
actly and therefore is the greater abomination to 
God." — Matthew Henry, A. D. 1662-1714, Com- 
ment on Prov. II :i. 

"Honesty is not only the deepest policy, but 
the highest wisdom, since however difficult it 
may be for integrity to get on, it is a thousand 
times more difficult for knavery to get off; and no 
error is more fatal than that of those who think 
that virtue has no other reward because they 
have heard that she is her own." — Charles C. 
CoLTON, A.D. 1 780-1 832, Lacon. 

With no intention of advocating dishonesty as 
a state or public policy, but rather to emphasize 
the necessity of material strength to enforce its 
laws and protect its citizens, Washington Irving 
wrote thus: 

"Whatever may be advanced by philosophers 
to the contrary, I am of opinion that, as to 
nations, the old maxim, that 'honesty is the 
best policy' is a sheer and ruinous mistake. It 
might have answered well enough in the honest 
times when it was made, but in these degenerate 
days, if a nation pretends to rely merely upon 
the justice of its dealings, it will fare something 
like an honest man among thieves, who, unless 
he have something more than his honesty to de- 
pend upon, stands but a poor chance of profiting 

172 Proverbs Annotated 

by his company." — Washington Irving, a.d. 
1 783-1 859, Knickerbocker History of New York. 

** Though an honest man should get no thanks 
from the world he ought to count it an abundant 
reward for all his self sacrifice that the world's 
Judge sees every righteous deed and delights in 
it." — William Arnot, a.d. i 808-1 875, Honesty 
is the Best Policy. 

That honesty is the best policy, "is true in the 
higher sense; but doubtful in the sense usually 
intended. It is true as to the general good, but 
not usually for the individual, except in the long 
run (we pass over the obvious truth, that it is 
better policy to earn a guinea than to steal one 
because the proverb has a far wider range of 
meaning than that). To be a 'politic,' clever 
fellow, a vast deal more humouring of prejudices, 
errors and follies, is requisite, than at all assorts 
with true honesty of character. If, however, we 
regard this proverb only on its higher moral 
ground, then, of course, we cannot at once admit 
its truth." — Household Words, February 7, 1852. 

*"Ah!' rejoins Mr. Brass, brim full of moral 
precepts and love of virtue. *A charming sub- 
ject of reflection for you, very charming. A 
subject of proper pride and congratulation, 
Christopher. Honesty is the best policy — I 
always find it so myself. I lost forty-seven 
pound ten by being honest this morning. But 
it's all gain, it's gain.'" — Charles Dickens, 
A.D. 1 812-1870, Old Curiosity Shop. 

Honesty Is the Best Policy 173 


A clean mouth and an honest hand will take a man through 

any land. (German). 
A few things gained by fraud destroy a fortune otherwise 

honestly won. (Latin). 
An ill wan penny will cast down a potmd. (English). 
A thief seldom grows rich by thieving. (German) . 
Honesty is better than ill gotten wealth. (English). 
Honesty makes rich, but she works slowly. (German). 
I never saw a tortuous person satisfied, nor a straight 

forward person in want of food. (Osmanli). 
Knavery may serve a turn but honesty is best at long run. 

Look not at thieves eating flesh, but look at them suffering 

punishment. (Chinese). 
No honest man ever repented of his honesty. (English). 
None can be wise and safe but he that is honest. (English). 
Of all crafts, to be an honest man is the best craft. (Eng- 
The best investment for income is honesty. (German). 
The thief proceeds from a needle to gold and from gold to 

the gallows. (Portuguese). 
The thief steals until he comes to the gallows. (German). 
Virtue triimiphs, vice decays. (Bengali.) 


A good honest man now-a-days is but a civil word for a fool. 

Can you take ghi (out of a bottle) with a straight finger? 

Curved (crooked) ship; straight voyage. (Osmanli). 
Honest men are easily humbugged. (English). 
Honesty is ill to thrive by. (English) . 
Honesty is praised and starves. (Latin). 

174 Proverbs Annotated 


All the honesty is in the partings. (English). 

A man never surfeits of too much honesty. (English). 

An honest countenance is the best passport. (English). 

An honest look covers many faults. (English) . 

An honest man does not make himself a dog for the sake 

of a bone. (Danish). 
An honest man has half as much more brains as he needs; 

a knave hath not half as much. (English). 
An honest man is hurt by praise unjustly bestowed. 

An honest man is not the worse because a dog barks at 

him. (Danish). 
An honest man's word is as good as his bond. (English). 
An honest man's word is as good as the king's. (Portu- 
An honest man's word is his bond. (Dutch). 
A nod of an honest man is enough. (English). 
As honest a man as any in the cards when the kings are 

out. (English). 
As honest a man as ever broke bread. (English). 
As honest a man as ever stepped. (English). 
As honest a man as ever trod on shoe leather. (English). 
As true as steel. (English). 
As true as the dial to the sun. (English). 
Clean hands want no wash ball. (English). 
He is wise that is honest. (Italian). 
He leaves his office with the beggar's staff in his hand, 

He that builds his house with other men's money is like 

one that gathers himself stones for the tomb of his 

burial. (Hebrew). 
Honest men and knaves may possibly wear the same 

clothes. (English). 
Honest men are botmd, but you can never bind a knave. 


Honesty Is the Best Policy 175 

Honest men fear neither the light nor the dark. (English) . 

Honest men marry soon, wise men not at all. (English). 

Honest men never have the love of a rogue. (English). 

Honest nobody is to blame for all. (English). 

Honesty and plain dealing put knavery out of bias. (Eng- 

Honesty is like an icicle — if once it melts that is the end of 
it. (American). 

Honesty is na a price. (Scotch). 

Honesty is the poor man's pork and the rich man's pudding. 

Honesty lasts longest. (English, German). 

Honesty may be dear bought but can ne'er be an ill penny- 
worth. (Scotch). 

Many an honest man stands in need of help that he has 
not the face to beg for. (English). 

No honest man has the leer of a rogue. (English). 

Too much honesty never did man harm. (English). 

Truth and honesty have no need of loud protestations. 

Truth and honesty keep the crown 0' the causey. (Scotch) . 

We are bound to be honest, but not to be rich. (English). 

You may trust him with untold gold. (English). 


As honest as the cat when the meat is out of reach. (Eng- 

First a turnip, then a sheep, next a cow, and then the 
gallows. (English). 

He that resolves to deal with none but honest men must 
leave off dealing. (English). 

He that steals an egg will steal an ox. (English, German). 

He that steals once is never trusted. (Spanish). 

He that will steal a pin will steal a better thing. (EngUsh). 

He that will steal a pin will steal an ox. (English). 

Honesty has stolen the cow. (German). 

176 Proverbs Annotated 

Hypocritical honesty goes upon stilts. (English). 
If he is very straight, he is still like a sickle. (Behar). 
If I am seen I am joking: if I am not seen I steal. 

It is a shame to steal, but a worse to carry home. (English). 
It is a sin to steal a pin. (English) . 
It is not enough to know how to steal, one must know how 

to conceal. (Italian). 
I would not trust him — ^no, not with a bag of scorpions. 

Never trust a black Brahmin or a white Pariah . (Hindoo) . 
Steal a horse and carry home the bridle. (German). 
Straight as a sickle. (English). 
They are all honest men but my cloak is not to be foimd. 

To hold the bag is as bad as to fill it. (English). 
Trust him no fiurther than you can see him. (English). 
When it thunders the thief becomes honest. (Italian). 
Who steals a calf will steal a cow. (German). 
You are a fool to steal if you cannot conceal. (English) . 
You measure every man's honesty by your own. (English) . 


The date and place from which this old pro- 
verb came is unknown. It was probably first 
used by seamen who knew that the wind that 
drove one ship into the wrecker's power helped 
another to pursue its course to the desired 
haven. Nathan Bailey (a.d. 1721) remarks that 
the "proverb intimates that the dispensations 
of providence are never entirely and universally 
ill in themselves, though they may be very 
afflicting to some particular persons," and 
quaintly illustrates the fact by the physician 
who profits by an epidemic, the builder who se- 
cures work because of the destruction of prop- 
erty by fire, and the pirate who is benefited by 
having the sinking merchant ship fall into his 

It is true that the sun shines on the evil and 
on the good, bringing discomfort to many but at 
the same time blessing the earth with light and 
warmth. The war devastates many districts, 
bringing pain and sorrow to the people but at the 
same time it stirs the hearts of multitudes with a 
new patriotism and purpose. 
12 177 

178 Proverbs Annotated 

"There is not an evil which fails to bring 
benefit to someone," says the Midrash. 

"Except wind stands as never it stood 
It is an ill wind turns none to good. " 

Thomas Tusser, a.d. i 524-1 580. 

"How now, Pistol! 

Pistol: Sir John, God save you ! 

Falstaff: What wind blew you hither, Pistol ? 

Pistol: Not the ill wind which blows no man 
to good. Sweet Knight, thou art now one of the 
greatest men in this realm." — William Shake- 
speare, A.D. 1 564-1 61 6, King Henry IV. 

"Ill blows the wind that profits nobody. 
This man, whom hand to hand I slew in fight, 
May be possessed with some store of crowns; 
And I, that haply take them from him now. 
May yet ere night yield both my life and them. 
To some man else, as this dead man doth me. " 
William Shakespeare, King Henry VII. 

"Nane were keener against it than the Glas- 
gowfolk, wi' their rabblings and their risings, and 
their mobs, as they ca' them now-a-days. But 
it's an ill wind blaws naebody gude — Let ilka 
ane roose the ford as they find it." — Sir Walter 
Scott, a.d. i 771-1852, Rob Roy. 

"Everything in the world is of some use but it 
would puzzle a doctor of divinity, or a philo- 
sopher, or the wisest owl in our steeple, to tell the 
good of idleness ; that seems to me to be an ill wind, 

It Is an 111 Wind 179 

which blows nobody any good." — Charles H. 
Spurgeon, a.d. 1 834-1 892, To the Idle. 


It is an ill wind that blows naebody gude. (Scotch) . 
It is an ill wind that blows no good to Cornwall. (English). 
It is a bad wind that does not blow good for somebody. 

It's an ill wind that blows no man good. (English). 
It*s an ill wind that tiurns none to good. (English). 


A bad son and a bad coin will save you sometime or other. 

I broke my leg perhaps for my good. (Spanish). 
HI comes not to one without good to another. (Welsh). 
HI luck is good for somebody. (French). 
Misfortune is good for something. (French). 
No weather is ill if the weather is still. (English). 
No wind ever blew that did not fill some sail. (Gaelic). 
Often out of a great evil a great good is born. (Italian) . 
One dog's death, another dog's grace. (Manx). 
One man's death is grace to another. (Gaelic). 
One person's house biurns that another may warm himself. 

Talk and laugh about — talk and cry about — i.e. That 

which causes laughter to one causes tears to another. 

The lady who found the ear ornament was as glad as the 

lady who lost it was sorry. (Telugu). 
The misfortimes of some people are advantageous to 

others. (Arabian). 
There is no misfortime that comes on the coimtry thai 

someone is not the better for it. (Irish). 
There is nothing so bad in which there is not something 

of good. (Hebrew). 

i8o Proverbs Annotated 

Were it not for the fractures there would be no pottery. 

What is bad luck for one man is good luck for another. 

What makes one abbot glad makes another abbot sad. 

When the father cried for his child the seicton cried for his 

money. (Telugu). 
When the owner cried for the cow the shoemaker cried 

for the hide — i.e. The death of the cow caused the 

owner to weep but the shoemaker to rejoice. 





It is too late to prevent injury or loss after 
injury or loss has been sustained. The proverb 
was in common use both in England and France 
during the fourteenth century. How much ear- 
lier it was freely quoted is not known. 

The Chinese use a saying that is more dramatic. 
Picturing to themselves a horse driven close to 
the edge of some rocks overhanging a gorge and 
a boat in which men have set sail and that has a 
hole in its keel, they say, "Horse having reached 
descent of precipice receives the rein too late, 
vessel having reached river's heart, mending the 
leak too late." 

The Telugus desiring to express the same 
thought have adopted a proverb from an old 
folk tale. According to a tradition among the 
people, a certain man saw his son perishing with 
thirst and let him die rather than give him a 
cocoanut, but immediately thereafter he offered 
the corpse all the cocoanut s that he had. When 
therefore the Telugus see a man exerting himself 
to prevent an injury sustained through his own 
carelessness they remark as though addressing 

1 82 Proverbs Annotated 

a third party, "Alas! my son, drink the water of 
all the cocoanuts." Sometimes instead of alluding 
to the tradition they will ask the man directly: 
"Will you worship the sun after losing your 
eyes?" in reference to the common practice of 
worshipping the sun when eyesight begins to fail. 
At other times they will adopt a more serious 
tone and advise the offender to " (apply) Colly- 
rium to your eyes while you have them" or 
"Put all things in order while the lamp is yet 

Two Greek sayings closely allied to the proverb 
are said to have originated as follows : A certain 
avaricious muleteer sought to save money by 
underfeeding his mule. As a result the animal 
became so weak that it was unable to bear a 
heavy burden. One day the muleteer placed an 
unusually large load on its back. The mule 
being unable to carry it fell to the ground where- 
upon the muleteer removed the burden and 
sought to raise the beast, but failing in his efforts, 
sought to induce the animal to rise by an 
offer of food, holding a handful of corn near its 
mouth, but it was of no use, the mule was too 
weak to rise. A passerby, seeing the muleteer's 
dilemma and knowing his avariciousness, taunt- 
ingly called out to him — "Fool, keep the com 
farther off" — which became a proverb. Some 
say that he called out — "Clown, you should 
have given the com sooner," which also became 
a proverb. 

It Is Too Late to Shut the Stable Door 183 

"A singing bird was confined in a cage which 
hung outside a window and had a way of singing 
at night when all other birds were asleep. One 
night a bat came and clung to the bars of the 
cage and asked the bird why she was silent by 
day and sang only at night. ' I have a very good 
reason for doing so,' said the bird: *It was 
once when I was singing in the daytime that 
a fowler was attracted by my voice and set 
his nets for me and caught me. Since then 
I have never sung except by night.' But the 
bat replied, * It is no use your doing that now 
when you are a prisoner; if only you had done 
so before you were caught you might still have 
been free.'" — ^sop, b.c. 56i(?), V. S, Vernon 
Jones' Translation. 

"When you have got into danger it is too late 
to seek advice." — Publius Syrus, b.c. 45(?) 

"Too late I grasp my shield after my wound." 
Ovid, b.c. 43-A.D. 18. 

"Thrift is too late at the bottom of the purse." 
— Seneca, b.c. 4-A.D. 65. 

"It is too late in refusing to bear the 
yoke to which he has already submitted." — 

"It is too late to be cautious when in the very 
midst of dangers" — Seneca. 

Let this proverbe a lore unto you be 
"To late y-war, " quod Beautee, "whan it paste. " 
Geoffrey Chaucer, a.d. i 328-1400, Troilus. 

184 Proverbs Annotated 

"I know, and knowledge I have wrought mine own pain; 
But things past my hands, I cannot call again. 
True (quoth Alice), things done cannot be undone, 
Be they done in due time, too late, or too soon; 
But better late than never to repent this. 
Too late (quoth mine aunt), this repentance showed is: 
When the steed is stolen shut the stable durre." 
John Heywood, a.d. 1497-1580, Dialogue of Effectual 

"When the steed is stolFn the groom never 
reflects upon his own negligence, but falls foul 
upon the bold adventure of the thief, as if the 
impudence and knavery of the one upon so 
inviting a temptation, could excuse the sottish- 
ness and folly of the other." — Oswald Dykes, 
A.D. 1707, Moral Reflections. 


After death, the doctor. (English, French). 

After meat, mustard. (English). 

After the act, wishing is in vain. (French) . 

After the carriage is broken many offer themselves to show 
the road. (Turkish). 

After the vintage, baskets. (Spanish). 

Alas! my son, drink the water of all the cocoanuts. 

An old woman entered a dance by paying a penny; after- 
wards she would have given two to get out, but she 
could not. (Modem Greek). 

Bad servants ask for advice after the deed is done. 

Clown, you should have given the corn sooner. (Modem 

Collyritmi to your eyes while you have them. (Telugu). 

Digging a well at the time of fire. (Kashmiri). 

It Is Too Late to Shut the Stable Door 185 

Fool, keep the corn farther off. (Modem Greek). 

Give losers leave to talk — They can always tell what should 

have been done. (English). 
Have not a cloak to make when it begins to rain. (English) . 
He fills the pit when the calf has perished in it. (Belgian). 
He has done like the Perugian, who, when his head was 

broken, ran home for his helmet. (Italian). 
He is wise that is ware in time. (English). 
He*s wise that's timely wary. (Scotch). 
Horse having reached descent of precipice receives the rein 

too late ; vessel having reached river's heart, mending 

the leak too late. (Chinese). 
It is full time to shut the stable when the horses have gone. 

It is no use cutting a stick when the fight is over. 

It is too late for the bird to scream when it is caught. 

It is too late to come with the water when the house is 

burned down. (English, Italian). 
It is too late to cover the well when the child is drowned. 

(German, Danish). 
It is too late to cry " Hold hard !" when the arrow has left 

the bow. (Dutch). 
It is too late to lock the stable door when the steed is 

stolen. (French, Dutch, Osmanli). 
It is too late to spare when the bottom is bare. (English). 
It is too late to throw water on the cinders when the house 

is burned down. (Danish), 
It's nae time to stoop when the head's off. (Scotch). 
It's ower late to lout when the head's got a clout. (Scotch). 
It's ower late to spare when the back's bare. (Scotch). 
It's past joking when the head's aff. (Scotch). 
It's too late to grieve when the chance has past. (English). 
Let the imcle die, I will find the devil afterwards — i.e. 

Dispense with the usual exorcism of the evil spirit 

until after the uncle's death. (Assamese) . 

1 86 Proverbs Annotated 

Lost time and opporttinity can never be recovered. (Eng- 
Like the wife that ne'er cries for the ladle till the pat rens 

o'er. (Scotch). 
One gets clothes after his nakedness has been covered, 

and food after his hunger is satisfied. (Kumaun, 

Plenty of words when the cause is lost. (Italian). 
Praying to have the fire stopped after it is well ablaze. 

Put all things in order while the lamp is yet burning. 

Repairing the tank after the water has escaped. (Sans- 
Repentance does not bring the lost back. (German). 
Thatch your roof before rainy weather, dig your well before 

you become parched with thirst. (Chinese). 
The dam must be made before the flood comes. (Hindoo) . 
The gladiator having entered the list is seeking advice. 

They fetch the salt after the rice is eaten. (Bengalese). 
*Tis too late to spare when the cask is bare. (Dutch). 
To begin to dig a well when you feel thirsty. (Marathi). 
To begin to put up a wedding awning after the wedding 

procession has reached the house. (Marathi). 
To cut a stick when the fight is over. (Japanese). 
To fetch water after the house is burned. (Spanish). 
"Too late to be aware," quoth Beauty, when it's past. 

To search for water after the house is burnt. (Marathi). 
To shut the stable door after the steed has been stolen. 

To stop the hole after the mischief is done. (Spanish). 
What is the use of a doctor after the death of the patient. 

When all is consumed repentance comes too late. 


It Is Too Late to Shut the Stable Door 187 

When a thing is lost people take advice. (French). 
When error is committed good advice comes too late. 

When he had eaten and was reclining on the sofa, he said, 

" Thy bread has a smell of mastick." (Arabian). 
When the calf is drowned they cover the well. (Dutch). 
When the calf is stolen the peasant mends his stall. 

When the corn is stolen the silly body builds the dyke. 

When the cold weather was over he made himself a coat. 

When the head is broken the helmet is put on. (Italian). 
When the horse is starved you bring him oats. (English). 
When the house caught fire they begin to dig a well. 

(Marathi, Hindustani). 
When the oil is wanted for the lamp he yokes the btillock 

to the mill. — The mill is used for extracting the oil. 

When the ship has sunk everyone knows how she might 

have been saved. (Italian). 
When the thief has escaped men's wits expand. (Ben- 
gal ese). 
When the wine runs to waste in the cellar he mends the 

cask. (German). 
When the wolf has run off with the child the door is made 

fast. (Hindustani). 
When you are thirsty it's too late to think about digging a 

well. (Japanese). 
When your horse is on a brink of a precipice it is too late 

to pull the reins. (Chinese). 
Will you worship the sim after losing your eyes? (Telugu). 
Ye rin for the spurtle when the pat's boiling ower. 

You come a day after the fair. (English). 
You plead after sentence is given. (English). 


A proverbial advice intended for speculators 
who in their desire to increase their income en- 
danger the principal from which their income 
is derived. 

The saying was derived from ^sop's fable of 
The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg. * ' A man and 
his wife had the good fortune to possess a goose 
which laid a golden egg every day. Lucky 
though they were they soon began to think they 
were not getting rich fast enough and, imagining 
the bird must be made of gold inside, they de- 
cided to kill it in order to secure the whole store 
of precious metal at once. But when they cut it 
open they found it was just like any other goose. 
Thus they neither got rich all at once, as they 
had hoped, nor .enjoyed any longer the daily 
addition to their wealth." — V. S. Vernon 
Jones' Translation, 


By filling it too much the sack burst. (Basque). 
Covetousness as well as prodigality brings a man to a 

morsel of bread. (English). 
Covetousness brings nothing home. (English). 

Kill Not the Goose That Lays 189 

Covetousness bursts the bag. (English, Spanish). 
Every man has a goose that lays golden eggs if he only 

knew it. (American). 
He has killed the goose that laid the golden egg. (English) . 
He that leaves certainty and sticks to chance, when fools 

pipe he may dance. (English). 
In trying to save a drop of ghi (butter) he upset the ghi-pot. 

Like going to Benares and bringing back a dog's hair. 

One may buy gold too dear. (English, German). 
The cord of a violin is broken in stretching it too much. 

They quarrel about an egg and let the hen fly. (German) . 
To avoid the smoke do not throw yourself into the fire. 

To fell a tree to catch a blackbird. (Chinese). 
To gain a cat but lose a cow. (Chinese). 
Too much good fortune is bad fortune. (English). 
Too much tying loo sens . (English) . 
Too much will soon break. (German). 
Too much zeal spoils all. (English, French). 
Who undertakes too much seldom succeeds. (Dutch). 


Consider first, act afterwards. Count the cost. 
Think before you speak. 

Thomas Tusser is not, as has been supposed, 
the originator of this saying. He quoted it, so 
also did Hey wood and Cervantes, who were his 
contemporaries, and ^sop told the story of The 
Fox and the Goat which is so strikingly suggestive 
of the thought conveyed in the adage that it 
could hardly have failed to have led to the forma- 
tion of the proverb long before the Christian era. 

Scripture Reference: Luke, 14: 28-32. 

Thus by these lessons, ye may learn good cheap 
In wedding and all things to look or ye leap. 
Ye have even now well overlooked me (quoth he), 
And leapt very nigh me too. For I agree 
That these sage sayings do weightily weigh 
Against haste in all things, but I am at bay 
By other parables, of like weighty weight, 
Which haste me to wedding, as ye shall hear straight. 
John Heywood, a.d. 1497-1580. 

Look ere you leape, see ere you go. 
It may be for thy profit so. 
Thomas Tusser, a.d. 1524?-! 580, Five Hundred Points. 

Look Before You Leap 191 

"Before you can awaken my choler, will I 
lay yours asleep so fast that it shall never wake 
more, unless in the other world; where it is well 
known I am one who will let no man's fist dust 
my nose. Let every man look before he leaps. * ' — 
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, a.d. 1547- 
161 6, Don Quixote. 

In ancient times all things were cheape 
'Tis good to looke before you leape 
When come is ripe 'tis time to reape. 
Martyn Parker, a.d. -1630, The Roxburghe Ballads, 

Y' had best (quoth Ralpho). As the Ancients 
Say wisely, have a care o' th' main chance. 
And look before you ere you leap; For as you sow y' 
are like to reap. 

Samuel Butler, a.d. 1600-1680, Hudihras. 

"Indeed had not my nature in itself abhorred 
precipitancy, the accredited and much admired 
maxim of 'looking before we leap,* stood in the 
way of all such sudden apostacy. I adopted, 
therefore, the half measure of studying the sub- 
ject denounced by my aunt, but of studying it 
by the light of the maxims which she herself 
prescribed." — John W. Cunningham, a.d. i 780- 
186 1, Sancho Proverhialist, 

VARIANT proverbs 

Before you leap look at the ground. (Malabar). 
Look before you leap for snakes among sweet flowers do 
creep. (English). 

192 Proverbs Annotated 

Look ere thou leap, see ere thou go. (English). 
Take care before you leap. (Italian). 


A word that when spoken you would wish back, let it 

remain in your head. (Ashanti). 
A wise man moves with one foot, stands fast with the other 

and does not quit the station he occupies without well 

considering that which he intends to go. (Chinese). 
Before you marry consider what you do. (Portuguese). 
Before you marry reflect — it is a knot you cannot untie. 

Before you motmt look to the girth. (Dutch). 
Before you understand a thing do not catch fire and flash 

like Albanian powder. (Osmanli). 
Every business ought first to be thought over. (Gaelic). 
First consider , then begin. (German) . 
First think, then enter upon a work. (Marathi). 
First weigh your words, then speak openly. (Marathi). 
He that looks not or he loup, will fall ere he wit of himself. 

His words accord not with his acts. (Osmanli). 
I tread along with the greatest caution. (Hindustani). 
Look at the river before you cross the ferry. (Irish). 
Look at the wind before you lose the boat. (Kashmiri). 
Look not at what is before you, look at your end. (Os- 
Measure your cloth ten times — ^you can cut but once. 

No one measures the river with both his feet. (African). 
Prepare the companion before (taking) the road, and the 

food before the journey. (Syrian). 
Say your say after reflection. (Osmanli). 
The chameleon does not leave one tree until he has 

sectured the other. (Arabian). 
They first lay the foundation and then build the wall. 


Look Before You Leap 193 

Think of the going out before you enter. (Arabian, 

You should look what you can swallow and what can 

swallow you. (Telugu). 


As the teeth of young horses come with their 
development and change with use their approxi- 
mate age up to a certain time can be told by 
examination. Hence to look into the mouth of a 
horse that is presented as a gift indicates that the 
receiver suspects the good will of the donor and 
fears lest the animal being too old for work was 
bestowed not as a favor but as an easy means of 
disposal. The Arabians, who are good judges of 
horses, claim that it is not only a discourtesy to 
look a gift horse in the mouth, but that it is 
unnecessary as the eyes indicate sufficiently the 
animal's value. When the eyes are clear and 
flashing the horse is given as a favor and not for 
the owner's benefit; hence the Bedouin saying, 
"The eye of a good horse serves for a tooth." 
The Bengalese have another test by which to 
ascertain the value of a gift horse and declare 
that "One knows the horse by his ears, the gen- 
erous by his gifts, a man by laughing and a jewel 
by its brilliancy." 

While the proverb cannot be traced with any 
certainty further back than the fourth century it 
was probably in use at a much earlier date 

Look Not a Given Horse In Mouth 195 

"Where gifts be given freely — east, west, north or south — 
No man ought to look a given horse in the mouth. 
And though her mouth be foul she hath a fair tail — 
I consider this text, as is most my avail. 
In want of white teeth and yellow hairs to behold, 
She flourisheth in white silver and yellow gold. 
What though she be toothless, and bald as a coot? 
Her substance is shoot anker, whereat I shoot." 

John Heywood, a.d. 1497-1580, A Dialogue of the 
Effectual Proverbs. 

"A gift ought to rise in our esteem in propor- 
tion of the friendship and respect of the donor, 
not its intrinsic excellency or worth. To inquire 
into these is buying and selling, and making a 
bargain with a friend; 'tis setting a price upon 
your own merit, which most people value too 
high in themselves and too low in everybody 
else." — Samuel Palmer, A.D. 1710, MoralEssays. 

"We may perhaps suppose that well known 
word which forbids the too accurate scanning of a 
present, 'One must not look a gift horse in the 
mouth,' to be of English extraction, the genuine 
growth of our own soil. I will not pretend to say 
how old it may be, but it is certainly as old as 
Jerome, a Latin father of the fourth century; 
who, when some found fault with certain writ- 
ings of his, replied with a tartness which he could 
occasionally exhibit, that they were voluntary 
on his part, free-will offerings, and with this 
quoted the proverb, that it did not behoove to 
look a gift horse in the mouth; and before it 

196 Proverbs Annotated 

comes to us we meet it once more in one of the 
rhymed Latin verses which were such great 
favorites in the middle ages: 

Si quis dat mannos, ne quasre in dentibus annos." 

— Archbishop Trench, a.d. i 807-1 886, Proverbs 
and Their Lessons. 

"A mediaeval writer tells us that *A gyuen 
horse may not be loked in the tethe.* Rabelais 
says it must not, and the author of Hudihras 
says it must not ; in fact there is an abundance of 
testimony to this effect, extending over centuries. 
The Frenchman says, 'A cheval donn6 il ne 
faut pas regarder aux dens' ; the Portuguese says, 
'Cavallo dado nao se repara a idade*; and the 
Spanish says, 'Caval donato non guardar in 
bocca,' and all over the world we find this deli- 
cacy of feeling advocated." — F. Edward Hulme, 
A.D. 1 841-1909, Proverb Lore. 


A gift cow — why has it no teeth? (Marathi). 

A given horse look not at his teeth. (Modem Greek). 

If anyone offers you a buffalo do not ask if she gives milk. 

If you are given a horse you won't insist on examining its 

mouth. (Belgian). 
The teeth of a gift horse are not inspected. (Osmanli). 
The teeth of a horse presented are never observed. 

They made him a present of a beast of biffden and he 

examined its teeth. (Modem Greek). 
When somebody gives you a donkey, you musn't examine 

the bridle. (Mauritius Creole). 

Look Not a Given Horse In Mouth 197 


A blind horse goes straight forward. (German). 

A dapple gray horse will sooner die than tire. (Scotch). 

A galled horse will not endure the comb. (English). 

A grunting horse and a groaning wife seldom fail their 

master. (English). 
A lean horse does not kick. (Italian). 
A nag wi' a waine and a mare wi' nane are no a gude pair. 

A safe (useless) aiver was ne'er a gude horse. (Scotch). 
Good luck for a gray mare. (English). 
He is a horse with four white feet — that is, he is imlucky. 

He is a weak horse that matmna bear the saddle. (Scotch). 
He's an auld horse that winna nicker when he sees com. 

He's a prude horse that winna carry his ain oats. (Scotch) . 
Horses are good of all hues. (Scotch). 
If he (the horse) has one (white foot) buy him; if he has 

two, try him; if he has three, look about him; if he has 

four come without him. (Scotch). 
It is a bad horse that does not earn his fodder. (Italian). 
It is a good horse that never stumbles. (French). 
It is a silly horse that can neither whinny nor wag his tail. 

It is certainly a good horse, but its circular marks are bad. 

Little may an auld horse do if he maimna nicker. (Scotch) . 
Rub a scald horse on the gall and he'll wince. (English). 
The best horse, the largest. (Welsh). 
The biggest horses are not the best travelers. (English). 
The blind horse is the hardiest. (English). 
The gray mare is the better horse. (English). 
The horse is judged by the saddle. (German, Chinese). 
The horse that does not stumble is the best horse. 


198 Proverbs Annotated 

The wounded horse as soon as he sees the saddle trembles. 

(Modern Greek). 
You can't judge of the horse by the harness. (English). 


A cow given to a Brahmin as a religious gift cannot be 

expected to have retained its teeth — It must be 

accepted without asking any questions, though it be 

worthless by reason of age. (Guirati). 
A gift cow eats thorns — i.e. It has no teeth. (Marathi). 
A gift of pulse. " Clean it before you give it to me." A 

beggar's ungracious return for a meal. (Marathi). 
A gift warm — i.e. A gift is bestowed and he asks to have 

it warm. (Marathi). 
Better a blind horse than an empty saddle. (Dutch). 
Better a poor horse than an empty stall. (Danish). 
Do not trouble about the color of a gift horse. (Italian). 
Like giving a horse in compensation to one who has been 

stripped. (Tamil). 
One knows the horse by his ears, the generous by his gifts, 

a man by laughing and a jewel by its brilliancy. 

The eye of a good horse serves for a tooth. (Arabian). 
The guest likes the bread which his host likes. (Bannu). 
The old horse must die in somebody's keeping. (English) . 
They gave a cucumber to the beggar — " I do not like it," 

he said, " it is crooked." (Osmanli). 
To dine upon charity and call out for sauce. (English). 
To have a dinner given you for nothing and to ask for 

pepper. (Marathi). 
"What is roughness to the ear to the man who gets grain 

for nothing? (Telugu). 
When a man is given a Putti of corn he complains of short 

measiire. A Putti is 500 lbs. (Telugu). 
WTio will sell a blind horse praises the feet. (German). 
Who wishes a horse without defects ought to go on foot. 



There is an old Portuguese saying that *' An- 
other's misfortune does not cure my pain," yet 
people will ever seek help in their grief, for the 
sorrowing heart craves sympathy and encourage- 

The proverb is so in accord with human experi- 
ence that it is vain to search for the time and 
place when it was first spoken. It belongs to all 
ages and all classes and conditions of men. 

But the saying is not always used to indicate a 
natural craving for sympathy. It is sometimes 
quoted to express the selfish desire of one sufferer 
that another should suffer with him. "If I 
must be in trouble," he says to himself, "it 
would be a satisfaction to know that I am not 
alone in my misery." Many people dislike to 
hear of a neighbor's prosperity when they them- 
selves are unfortunate or to learn of another's 
joy when they themselves are in grief. It was 
with this selfish side of the proverb in view that 
-^sop told the story of the Tunny fish that was 
chased by a Dolphin. The Dolphin continually 
gained on the Tunny fish when, just as it was 
about to seize its prey, they were both carried 

200 Proverbs Annotated 

by the force of their flight upon a sand bank in an 
exhausted condition. Lying in helplessness on 
the beach the Tunny fish turned to its enemy and 
said, "I don't mind having to die now, for I see 
that he who is the cause of my death is about to 
share the same fate. ' ' 

"Though ever so compassionate, we feel within 
I know not what tart, sweet, malicious pleasure 
in seeing others suffer; children themselves feel it: 

* 'Tis sweet from land to see a storm at sea, 
And others sinking, whilst ourselves are free.' 

Whoever should divest man of the seeds of these 
qualities would destroy the fundamental condi- 
tions of human life." — Michael de Montaigne, 
A.D. 1 533-1 592, Of Prophet and Honesty. 

*"I mean,' said Don Quixote, 'that when the 
head aches, all the members partake of the pain : 
so then, as I am thy master, I am also thy head; 
and as thou art my servant, thou art one of my 
members, it follows therefore that I cannot be 
sensible of pain, but thou too oughtest to be 
affected with it; and likewise, that nothing of ill 
can befall thee, but I must bear a share." — 
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, a.d. 1547- 
161 6, Don Quixote. 

"Grief best is pleased with grief's society 
True sorrow is then feelingly suffered 
When with like semblance it is sympathized." 
William Shakespeare a.d. 1564-16 16, The 
Rape of Lucrece. 

Misery Loves Company 201 

"Alas, the storm is come again! my best way 
is to creep under his gaberdine ; there is no other 
shelter hereabout; misery acquaints a man with 
strange bed-fellows. I will here shroud till the 
dregs of the storm be past." — William Shake- 
speare, The Tempest. 

"Who alone suffers most i* the mind, 
Leaving free things and happy shows behind: 
But then the mind much sufferance doth o'erskip, 
When grief hath mates, and bearing fellowship." 

William Shakespeare, King Lear. 

"Tut, man, one fire bums out another's burning 

One pain is lessen'd by another's anguish; 
Turn giddy, and be holp by backward turning; 

One desperate grief cures with another's languish: 
Take thou some new infection to thy eye, 
And the rank poison of the old will die. " 

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet. 

"I am convinced that we have a degree of 
deUght, and that no small one, in the real mis- 
fortunes and pains of others." — Edmund Burke, 
A.D.I 730-1 797, The Sublime and Beautiful. 

"I therefore purpose not, or dream. 
Descanting on his fate. 
To give the melancholy theme 

A more enduring date; 
But misery still delights to trace 
Its semblance in another's case." 
William Cowper, a.d. i 731-1800, The Castaway. 

202 Proverbs Annotated 

"No bond, 
In closer union knits two human hearts 
Than fellowship in grief." 
Robert Southey, a.d. 1774-1843, Joan of Arc. 

"Most of our misfortunes are more support- 
able than the comments of our friends upon 
them." — Charles C. Colton, a.d. i 780-1 832, 


A friend in need is a friend in deed. (English). 

A friend is best found in adversity. (English). 

A good companion makes heaven out of hell. (German). 

Another's misfortune does not cure my pain. (Portuguese). 

A true friend is known in the day of adversity. (Turkish). 

" Bad company," said the thief, as he went to the gallows 
between the hangman and a monk. (English). 

Between the blind soldier and his wall-eyed mare, provi- 
dence has created friendship. (Hindustani). 

Birds of a feather flock together. (English) . 

Company in distress makes trouble less. (French). 

Company in misery makes it light. (English) . 

It is pleasant to die in company or to have companions in 
misfortime. (Persian). 

Misfortunes make friends. (Latin). 

Misfortimes make strange bed-fellows. (English). 

My friend is he who helps me in time of need. (German) . 

One whose own barn is burned wishes the same misfor- 
tune to others. (Persian). 

Pity him who turns his back on his own people. (Gaelic). 

The afliicted cannot console the afliicted. (Arabian). 


In talking with others do not refer to personal 
nor family matters that would be likely to recall 
disagreeable events, or in any way cause annoy- 
ance to the person with whom you are convers- 

The proverb is intended to encourage prudence 
and courtesy in speech. "Whoso keepeth his 
mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from 
troubles" (Prov., 21:23). 

Tiruvallurar, the greatest of the Tamil poets, 

"The bums will heal: but festering stays, 
The wound a burning tongue conveys. " 

thus emphasizing the importance of self-control 
in speech. 

The saying is probably derived from the 
ancient Hebrew proverb, "Should there be a 
case of hanging in one's family record, say not to 
him * Hang up this fish.' " 

"A fool is like a bottle broken in the bottom, 
for so is he broken in his heart, which is the bot- 

204 Proverbs Annotated 

torn of a man ; and as a bottle so broken keepeth 
nothing in it, so a fool uttereth all his mind. He 
hath no stopple for it, no care what to utter, what 
not, what now, what at another time, what to 
this man, what to that, but all is one to him, so 
all be out. Otherwise is the carriage of a wise 
man. He keepeth his mind in, he locks and bars 
it up." — Michael Jermin, a.d. 1659, Comment 
on Prov., 29: II. 

"He that is wise will be extremely cautious in 
discourse in all mixed conversation, where he does 
not know either the good humor and virtues, or 
the weakness, infirmities and vices of his com- 
pany; and there is very good reason for such a 
caution. No man of sense would desire to give an 
affront to strangers, or be thought to do it, and 
yet this is very difficult to prevent if we go sud- 
denly into all the freedom of discourse without 
looking round the room and observing what may 
be acceptable and what not. . . . No man ought 
ever to make natural infirmities, or peculiar mis- 
fortunes, the matter of his discourse, or to be too 
free in making applications of a story among 
strangers — it may happen to touch too near. In 
general our conversation should always be em- 
ployed on the virtues and good actions of men, 
or against vice, without reference to particular 
persons. . . . Thus I take it to be folly to rally 
and jest upon the deformities of a squint-eye, red 
hair, or a crooked back; to draw inferences, as 
some people are mighty fond of, that such a one's 

Name Not a Rope in his House 205 

father hanged himself, another's broke and a 
third was so and so." — Samuel Palmer, a.d. 
1 7 10, Moral Essays. 


Dinna speak o' a raip to a chiel whose faither was hanged. 


Do not show a man that is hanged a rope, nor a burnt man 
fire. (Syrian). 

Don't mention a rope in the house of him who has been 
hanged. (French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portu- 
guese, Modem Greek). 

It is dangerous to mention ropes in the house of a man 
who was hanged. (Spanish). 

Mention not a halter in the house of him that was hanged. 

Never speak of a rope in the house of a thief. (Portuguese). 


A bad word is like the sound of a dome — The bad word is 
retiurned by reason of an echo. (Persian). 

A bridle for the tongue is a necessary piece of furniture. 

A great spear woimd is well to heal quickly; a severe 
tongue wound becomes a sore in the heart and healeth 
not. (Afghan). 

A slip of the foot may be soon recovered, but that of the 
tongue never. (English). 

A slip of the tongue is worse than that of the feet. (Tamil) . 

A tongue thrust is worse than a serpent's sting. (Martini- 
que Creole). 

A word once spoken, an army of chariots cannot overtake 
it. (Chinese). 

Better a slip of the foot than of the tongue. (French). 

Confine your tongue lest it confine you. (English) . 

206 Proverbs Annotated 

Don't make beans come from the mouth — Do not tell 

every thmg that is in your mind. (Osmanli). 
Don't mention the cross to the devil. (Italian). 
He that knows not how to hold his tongue knows not how 

to talk. (English). 
He that restrains not his tongue shall live in trouble. 

(Ancient Brahmin). 
He who says what he likes hears what he does not like. 

(English, Spanish). 
His ear does not listen to what comes out of his mouth — 

He speaks without considering the import of hiswords. 

If your foot slips you may recover your balance, but if your 

mouth slips you cannot recall your words. (Telugu). 
It is a gude tongue that says nae ill. (Scotch). 
It is more necessary to guard the mouth than the chest. 

Keep guard over the tongue that is in your mouth. 

May you never eat that leek which will rise up in your own 

throat — May you never be forced to eat your own 

words. (Afghan). 
Open your mouth for something good. (Osmanli). 
People should talk not to please themselves but those who 

hear them. (English). 
Put a key on your tongue. (Modem Greek). 
Should there be a case of hanging in one's family record, 

say not to him " Hang up this fish." (Hebrew). 
Speaking without thinking is shooting without taking aim. 

Speak well of the dead. (English). 
Speak well of thy friends, be silent as to thy enemies. 

Speak well of your friend, of yoiu* enemy neither well nor 

ill. (Italian). 
Sugar flows from his mouth — He speaks pleasantly of 

people. (Osmanli). 

Name Not a Rope in his House 207 

Taste in the mouth, screaming in the throat — It was a 

pleasure for you to speak as you did but when you 

consider the results of your words you will regret 

having spoken as you did. (Osmanli). 
The tongue breaketh bone, though itself have none. 

(English, Modem Greek). 
The tongue has no bone yet it crushes. (Turkish). 
The tongue slays more than the sword. (Turkish). 
The tongue wotmds more than a lance. (French). 
To slip on the pavement is better than to slip with the 

tongue. (Hebrew). 
Turn yoiu* tongue seven times before speaking. (English) . 
Two ears to one tongue, therefore hear twice as much as 

you speak. (Turkish). 
Two words in speaking, two rounds in fastening. 

In splicing bamboos two rounds or more of rope or 
cane is required to fasten them together before 
the knot is tied. (Assamese). 
We heal the wounds of a knife but not those of the tongue. 

You might hold the hand that strikes you but you cannot 

hold the tongue. (Urdu). 
Your tongue runs before your wit. (English). 


Never abuse privileges that have been granted 
as favors. 

Though the date of this saying iB unknown it 
was used before the sixteenth century. There 
never was a time when men have not been found 
who would not take advantage of the liberality 
of others and their acts have been freely ex- 
pressed in proverbs. "Give them a pea," as the 
Guernsey folk say, "and they will take a bean," 
or "Invite them to your home for a while," as 
the natives of India declare, ' ' and they will take 
possession of the whole house." A borrowed 
horse is to them a gift of service that may be 
used to the limit of the animal's endurance, hence 
the warning that the beneficiary should not abuse 
a benefactor's bounty. 

"If I have told right, thou hast given thyself 
above a thousand stripes ; that is enough for one 
beating ; for, to use a homely phrase, the ass will 
carry his load, but not a double load; ride not a 
free horse to death." — Miguel de Cervantes 
Saavedra, a.d. 1547-1616, Don Quixote. 

"Henry Ware, with his benevolence and frigid 
manners, reminded men how often of a volcano 

Never Ride a Free Horse to Death 209 

covered with snow. But there was no deep en- 
thusiasm. All his talent was available, and he 
was a good example of the proverb, no doubt a 
hundred times applied to him, of *A free steed 
driven to death.' " — Ralph Waldo Emerson, 
A.D. 1803-1882, Journal, Aug. 10, 1S43. 


A borrowed horse and your own spurs make short miles. 

(Danish, Italian). 
A dapple gray horse will sooner die than tire. (Scotch). 
A little more breaks a horse's back. (English). 
A gentle horse should na be o'er sair spurr'd. (Scotch). 
A good horse has no need of the spur. (Italian). 
A hired horse and your own spurs make the miles short. 

(German, Dutch). 
A hired horse tired never. (Scotch). 
A horse shall gang on Carrolside brae till the girth gaw his 

sides in twae. (Scotch). 
All lay loads on a village horse. (English). 
Another man's horse and your own spurs outrun the wind. 

Another man's horse and your own whip can do a great 

deal. (Danish). 
Beggars mounted run their horses to death. (English). 
Do not spiu: a willing horse. (English, Italian, French, 

German, Latin). 
Gee on ! hired horse. (Welsh). 

Give them a pea and they will take a bean. (Guernsey). 
Invite them to your home for a while and they will take 

possession of the whole house. (India). 
Milk the cow but don't pull ofif the udder. (Dutch). 
Mount not a horse that does not belong to you — ^Boast 

not of things of which you are ignorant. (Syriac). 
The horse that draws always gets the whip. (German, 

French, Italian). 


The word "poke," meaning a bag, is of Celtic 
origin and has given us the words "pouch" and 
"pocket." The miller's cart of mediaeval days 
was called a "poke cart" because it was often 
filled with bags of meal. 

The phrase, it is said, was often used in olden 
times by purchasers of small pigs when the peas- 
ants brought them in strong bags to the trading 
places, for it was a common trick of dishonest 
sellers to substitute a cat or some other small 
animal for a sucking pig and an examination of a 
package was a wise precaution. When on open- 
ing the bag a fraud was discovered and a cat 
escaped the tradesman was said to have "let 
the cat out of the bag." John Wycliffesaid that 
peace should be in the church without strife of 
doggies in a poke. 

Among poor peasants the selling of a fully 
grown pig was fraught with much anxiety for the 
money received was often necessary for the pur- 
chase of household supplies and payment of rents 
so that any failure to secure full payment might 
lead to want and much suffering. This fact gives 
significance to the saying, "A hog upon trust 


Never Buy a Pig in a Poke 211 

grunts until it is paid for" which was current at 
the time. 

The origin of the proverbial admonition to re- 
frain from buying a pig in a poke is obscure. It 
may have come from a common trade custom as 
indicated above or it may have arisen, as Profes- 
sor Alexander Negris maintains, from "the prac- 
tice in Greece, ' ' during the Mahometan dominion 
of selHng pork in the night time, which was done 
with the greatest secrecy, to avoid giving offence 
to the tyrant." 

While similar admonitions are found in many 
lands, the English form is more frequently 
used, both because of its quaintness and 

"Blind bargains" have always been regarded 
as unfair; an honest seller is willing to show his 
goods and a prudent purchaser should know for 
what he spends his money. 

"Down ran the blody streem upon his brest; 
And in the floor with nose and mouth to-broke 
They walweden as pigges in a poke; 
And up they goon, and down they goon anon. 
Till that the miller stumbled at a ston." 
Geoffrey Chaucer, a.d. 1328-1400, Canterbury Tales. 

"And a thousand fold would it grieve me more 
That she, in my fault, should die one hour before 
Than one minute after; then haste must provoke, 
When the pig is proffered to hold up the poke." 
John Heywood, a.d. 1497-1580, A Dialogue. . 

212 Proverbs Annotated 

"But your teeth must water — a good cockney coke! 
Though ye love not to buy the pig in the poke, 
Yet snatch ye at the poke, that the pig is in, 
Not for the poke, but the pig good cheap to win." 

John Heywood. 

"I will never buy the pig in the poke; 
There's many a foul pig in a fair cloak." 

John Heywood. 

*' In doing of either let wit beare a stroke 
For buying or selling of pig in a poke." 

Thomas Tusser, a.d. i 524-1 580, 
Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry. 

"However honest people, in their right wits, 
do not use to go to market to buy a pig in a poke. 
They do not lay their money out at a venture, 
upon what they do not see, handle and know very 
well, before the bargain is struck." — Oswald 
Dykes, a.d. 1707, Moral Reflections. 

"Examine the article before you part with 
your money. If you do not do so, and are taken 
in, you will have yourself to blame. If the pig 
in the poke should turn out to be very lean, it will 
be no wonder. If it had been fat the seller would 
have allowed you to see it." — Charles H. Spur- 
GEON, a.d. 1 834-1 892, The Salt Cellars. 


A pig in a poke. (Modem Greek). 

Buy no cats in bags. (Belgian). 

rU ne'er buy a blind bargain or a pig in a poke. (Scotch). 

Never Buy a Pig in a Poke 213 

It is folly to buy a cat in a sack — ^i.e. a game bag. (French). 
To buy the cat in the bag. (German, Welsh) . 


A cat is not sold in a bag, but openly produced. (African, 

Do not look upon the vessel, but upon that which it con- 
tains. (English). 
Don't bite till you know whether it is bread or a stone. 

Nocturnal venison is not fat — ^i.e. Game caught in the 

night is poor. (Oji). 
The horse is in the stable and you declare his price in the 

market. (Hindustani). 
To buy a cat for a hare . ( French) . 
To settle the price of a bufFalo while she is lying in the 

water. (Marathi). 
When the pig is proffered hold up the poke. (English). 
When they give you a heifer make haste with the halter. 



One drop of water does not make a shower, one 
virtue does not make a saint, one battle does not 
decide the fate of war, one misdoing does not 
make a vagabond, one profitable venture does 
not make a successful business career. 

In days of old the people of England expected 
swallows to make their appearance about the 
middle of April and the fifteenth day of the fourth 
month was therefore set apart as "Swallow 
Day," yet they were wise enough to realize that 
birds could not create seasons and that one 
swallow would not make a summer any more 
than one woodcock would make a winter. 

There are several reasons why the swallow 
should have been selected by the makers of this 
proverb, rather than any other bird. It attracts 
attention by its graceful movement and is loved 
because of its solicitous provision for the comfort 
of its mate. No male bird is more tender of its 
mate, particularly at nesting time. He provides 
not only for her wants but takes her place in the 
nest that she may fly abroad for needed exercise. 
When the birdlings appear he is ready to assist 
her in caring for them until they leave the nest. 

One Swallow Does not Make a Summer 215 

Even after they have entered independent lives, 
both he and his mate seem to retain an interest 
in them, for it is said, when they meet in the air 
the parent birds pause in flight to lovingly touch 
the beaks of their children. 

Another reason why it was said that "One 
swallow does not make a summer" may have 
been that one is seldom seen. Swallows are 
gregarious ; they go in flocks and live in colonies. 
So pronounced is this trait that when the fledg- 
lings leave their nest they keep together feeding 
about the same place. 

Perhaps the main reason is found in the fact 
that the swallow has always been closely as- 
sociated with superstition. In centuries past 
men were wont to regard the bird as a bringer of 
good and ill luck. Among the Romans it was 
sacred to the household gods and was under 
special protection. To kill one meant that the 
slayer would meet with dire misfortune. Its 
early appearance in the spring assured the old 
Slavonians of an abundant harvest and also pro- 
tected them from fire and lightning. Bohemian 
maidens looked for the coming of the bird with 
both hope and fear, for they believed that the girl 
who was first to see one would be married before 
the close of the year, but the girl who saw two 
would be compelled to wait. In Ireland the 
swallow is called the "Devil's Bird" because it 
is said to pluck the hair of destiny from men's 
heads which dooms them to perdition. The peas- 

2i6 Proverbs Annotated 

ants of Germany once thought that the flight of 
the bird beneath a cow would sometimes lead to 
its death, or in case it should live would cause it 
thenceforth to give bloody milk which was known 
as "Swallow Milk." Our own ancestors were 
glad to have swallows build their nests under the 
eaves of their houses because their presence 
brought good luck. There is an old belief that 
they fly to the seashore and bring their fledglings 
a stone which gives them sight. 

"Oft in the bams they climbed to the populous nests on 
the rafters, 
Seeking with eager eyes that wondrous stone, which the 

Brings from the shore of the sea to restore the sight of its 

Lucky was he who found that stone in the nest of the 

Henry W. Longfellow, a.d. i 807-1 882, Evangeline. 

There is an old Norwegian tradition that the 
swallow obtained its name at the cross — that 
when Jesus died it flew above the head crying 
"Svala! svala!" and was thenceforth known as 
Svalow which means the bird of consolation. 
Still another tradition is preserved in France 
that declares the swallow removed the crown of 
thorns from the brow of Christ and in doing so 
pierced its own breast, which accounts for its 
ruddy hue. 

The origin of the proverb is unknown. It was 
quoted by Horace the Latin poet before the 

One Swallow Does not Make a Stunmer 217 

Christian era. It was also used by Aristotle three 
centuries and more before the coming of our 
Lord. It may have been suggested from ^Esop's 
fable of The Spendthrift and the Swallow. 

The oldest form of the proverb substitutes 
spring for summer. 

"I did lately hear 
How flek and his make use their secret haunting, 
By one bird, that in mine ear was late chaunting. 
One swallow maketh not summer, (said I), men say. " 
John Heywood, a.d. 1497-1580, A Dialogue. 

''Pimon: With all my heart, gentlemen both • 
and how fare you ? 

First Lord: Ever at the best, hearing well of 
your lordship. 

Second Lord: The swallow follows not sum- 
mer more willing than we your lordship. 

Timon {Aside): Nor more willingly leaves 
winter; such summer birds are men." — William 
Shakespeare, a.d. 1564-1616, Timon of Athens. 

"I could never yet be a friend to the Roman 
Auguries, nor have any faith for their fond, fool- 
ish and credulous observations taken from the 
fl)ring, feeding, chirping, chattering or singing of 
crows, pies, owls, eagles, vultures, buzzards and 
such like birds: I do not know whether there 
were any swallows among 'em; but this I am 
confident of, that the Grecians were much in the 
right on't, to say, that one swallow makes no 
summer. ... A swallow's flying abroad early in 

2i8 Proverbs Annotated 

the spring is not a sufficient direction to make me 
leave off my clothes, in hope of fine weather, or 
dress myself up in a volatile air, upon the ex- 
pectation of a warm summer, for fear of catching 
a mistake and meeting with a cold reception 
upon such an over-hasty credulity . . . But this 
I may positively assert, according to the general 
opinion of all writers, as well as Sophocles, the 
Prince of the Tragic Poets; that, as one inhabi- 
tant does not make a city, nor one man a multi- 
tude, so neither can one silly swallow rationally 
convince a wise, a cautious or a considerate per- 
son of the approach of summer." — Oswald 
Dykes, a.d. 1707, Moral Reflections. 

"All the false as well as foolish conclusions 
from a particular to a universal truth, fall under 
the censure of this proverb. It teaches that as 
he that guesses at the course of the year by the 
flight of one single bird, is very liable to be mis- 
taken in his conjecture; so also a man cannot be 
denominated rich from one single piece of money 
in his pocket, nor accounted universally good 
from the practice of one single virtue, nor tem- 
perate because he is stout, nor liberal because he 
is exactly just : that one day cannot render a man 
completely happy in point of time, nor one action 
consummate his glory in point of valor. In 
short the moral of it is, that the right way of 
judging of things, beyond imposition and fallacy, 
is not from particulars but universals." — Na- 
than BAILEY, A.D. 1 72 1, Diverse Proverbs 

One Swallow Does not Make a Summer 219 

"We are but too ready to accept the first iso- 
lated sign of success as a proof of its aggregate 
presence, or forthcoming; whereas any one ac- 
tual and entire success requires a combination of 
favorable circumstances — with a sharp sprink- 
ling of unfavorable too, by way of spurs and 
spices — more numerous and intricate than could 
ever be present, or even seen after they had 
occurred." — Household Words, February 28, 
1852, Commenting on the Proverb. 

"The Greek original of 'One swallow does not 
make a spring,' which is as old as Aristotle and 
seems to be the basis of an allusion in Aristo- 
phanes, ought to have weight in the question 
which has found its way into Notes and Queries, 
whether for 'spring' we ought to read 'summer.' 
Mrs. Ward in her National Proverbs in Five 
Languages does not decide the question, though 
she proves the wide acceptance of the proverb. 
The difference seems to resolve itself into one of 
climate. Of the Greek form, another evidence 
is preserved in a painted vase representing some 
ladies looking up at a bird, while from the mouth 
of one of them proceeds a scroll bearing the words, 
' See the swallow ! It is already spring.'" — Lon- 
don Quarterly Review, July, 1868. 

"Yes — one foul wind no more makes a winter 
than one swallow makes a summer. I'll try it 
again. Tom Pinch has succeeded. With his 
advice to guide melmay do the same. " — Charles 
Dickens, a.d. 1812-1870, Martin Chuzzlewit. 

220 Proverbs Annotated 

"When, wild with deUght, I saw a swallow 
glancing through the sunny springtime air, I 
ran to tell my father. Can I forget how he too, 
who had been a 'snapper-up of unconsidered 
trifles,' seeming not to share in my gladness, 
looked up and said wamingly, 'One swallow 
does not make a summer.'" — Louise V. Boyd 
in Arthur's Magazine ^ 1873. 

"It's surely summer, for there's a swallow: 
Come one swallow, his mate will follow. 
The bird-race quicken and wheel and thicken. " 
Christina G. Rosetti, a.d. i 830-1 894, Bird Song. 


A single flower or a single swallow does not always an- 
nounce the Spring. (Armenian). 

One actor cannot make a play. (Chinese). 

One basket of grapes does not make a vintage. (Italian). 

One brier does not make a hedge. (Italian). 

One cloud does not make a winter. (Osmanli). 

One crow does not make a winter. (German, Dutch). 

One day of gre,at heat never yet made a summer. (Breton). 

One devil does not make hell. (Italian). 

One finger does not make a hand nor one swallow a stmi- 
mer. (Portuguese). 

One flower does not make spring. (Latin, Osmanli). 

One flower makes no garland. (English). 

One horseman does not raise a dust cloud. (Bannu). 

One rain won't make a crop. (Negro — Tide-water section 
of Georgia). ^ 

One stone does not make a stone wall. (Osmanli.) 

One swallow does not make a spring nor one woodcock a 
winter. (English). 

One Swallow Does not Make a Stuimer 221 

One tree does not make a forest. (Negro — Tide-water 
section of Georgia). 


One dose will not cure nor one feed make fat. (Gaelic). 
One grain fills not a sack but helps his fellows. (English) . 
One makes not a people — ^nor a town. (African — ^Accra). 
What dust will rise from one horseman. (Bannu). 
When one man has his stomach full it cannot satisfy every 
man. (Vai-West Africa). 



The proverb is applied to people who in their 
endeavor to extricate themselves from one dif- 
ficulty complicate themselves in another and 
greater difficulty; or who, laboring under hard 
conditions, seek relief in an emplo5rment where 
the work is much more severe. 

The origin of the saying is not known. It is 
used in various forms in different parts of the 
world. In its old Latin form : "Out of the smoke 
into the flame" it predates the fourth century for 
we find it quoted by Amianus Marcellinus, the 
Roman historian. In its Greek form which is 
the same as the Latin it was used by Lucian the 
satirical writer in the second century. 

The EngHsh equivalent — "Out of the frying 
pan into the fire" seems to have a direct reference 
to fish that fall into the flame when being cooked. 

John Heywood (a.d. 1497-1580) wrote: 

" I mislike not only your watch in vain, 
But also, if ye took him, what could ye gain? 
From suspicion to knowledge of ill, forsooth ! 
Could make ye do but as the flounder doeth — 
Leap out of the frying pan into the fire, 
And change from ill pain to worse is worth small hire." 

Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire 223 

A writer in Blackwoods Magazine (1864) gives 
expression to the same idea in the stanza : 

" The fish that left the frying pan, 
On feeling that desire, sir. 
Took little by their change of plan, 
When floundering in the fire, sir." 

Several of ^sop's fables illustrate the thought 
of the proverb. Among them may be noted The 
old Woman and her Maids, The Ass and his 
Master and The Stag and the Lion. 

In modern times we find it illustrated by a 
West African practice. On cold nights, it is 
said, the Negroes of the gold coast huddle close 
to a fire for warmth. Sometimes the smoke from 
the burning logs annoys them and in half wake- 
ful condition they call to their companions who 
are near the blaze, to remove the smoking log. 
Should the log be removed and the smoke con- 
tinue, the request is repeated and another log is 
thrown aside. This being done a number of 
times the fire goes out and there is no warmth. 
In relieving themselves of the annoyance of 
smoke they have the greater annoyance of cold. 
This occurs so often that the practice gave rise 
to the Oji proverb — * ' Throw it away ! Throw it 
away! Then we shall soon sleep without fire." 

On the Afghan frontier a story is told of a 
certain Hindoo, who, being ordered by a Mo- 
hammedan king to repeat when attending him 
the words "Ram, Ram," the requirement so 

224 Proverbs Annotated 

annoyed the Hindoo that he determined to 
escape from the tyranny of such a useless pro- 
cedure, so he fled and, being captured, was sold 
into slavery, hence the Pashto saying — "I was 
escaping from the Ram and fell on hard work." 
A pictorial illustration of the proverb is found 
in Barber's Hand Book (1859) where a man is 
represented as seeking to escape from a wolf. 
In his endeavor to keep beyond the animal's 
reach he came to a precipice and is shown as 
hanging on a rock above the yawning chasm and 
near to the wolf's savage teeth. The stanza 
beneath the picture tells the story of the man's 
dilemma thus : 

"See here a man doth true courage lack, 
He flies apace — a wolf is on his track; 
Nearer he comes — the man doth swifter flee; 
The verge he gains; he leaps into the sea: 
Out of one danger into one more great, 
The foolish creature finds his certain fate." 

"The short and the long is, I take it to be the 
wisest course to jog home and look after our 
harvest and not to run rambling from Ceca to 
Mecca, lest we 'leap out of the frying pan into 
the fire,' or 'out of God's blessing into the warm 
sun.'" — Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, a.d. 
1 547-1 61 6, Don Quixote. 

"Thus must I from the smoke into the smother; 
From tyrant Duke into tyrant brother: 
But heavenly Rosalind!" 
William Shakespeare, a.d. 1564-16 16, As You Like It. 

Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire 225 

"This proverb is usually applied to persons 
who.impatient under some smaller inconvenience, 
and rashly endeavoring to extricate themselves, 
for want of prudence and caution, entangle them- 
selves in difficulty greater than they were in 
before." — Nathan Bailey, a.d. 1742. 

"Although the worid is so changeful and un- 
certain, that quiet, amongst all its rarities, seems 
the thing most rare ; there are many persons who 
appear to have more than they like of it, and are 
so impatient for novelty, that they are contin- 
ually leaping out of the frying pan of their own 
tormenting restlessness, into the fire of positive 
calamity. By changing for the sake of change 
they expect trouble to give them ease, and find 
out to their cost, that the cure is worse than the 
complaint." — ^Jefferys Taylor, a.d. 1827, Old 
English Sayings. 

"One may make more haste than good speea, 
in escaping from the plague, by breaking one's 
neck in jumping out of a window. Some persons 
fairly kill themselves to save their lives. They 
leap out of the frying pan into the fire, not 
because there was nothing better that they 
could do, but because they would not give 
themselves time to do it. Many things are 
repented of at lesiure, merely because they were 
done in haste." — Jefferys Taylor, Old English 

"No one was ever yet compelled to commit 
sin, small or great, since there is always the al- 

226 Proverbs Annotated 

temative of suffering. He who prefers moral to 
physical harm, of two evils chooses the greatest ; 
he beyond a question leaps out of the frying pan 
into the fire." — Jefferys Taylor, Old English 

"In the common affairs of life, we ought to 
be careful about getting out of the frying pan 
into the fire. He that will get into debt, in order 
to save himself some little trouble, privation or 
economy, will find that he has taken a greater 
evil for a lesser one. Better to live on bread and 
water than to be harassed about debts which 
cannot be paid." — John W. Barber, a.d. 1798- 
1885, Hand Book. 


Avoiding the rain we meet a tempest. (Turkish). 

Fleeing from smoke he falls into fire. (Osmanli). 

Flying from the bull he fell into the river. (Spanish). 

From leaking to under the water spout. (Syrian). 

From the fear of the rain he flies under the spout. (Per- 

He fled from the rain and sat down under the water spout. 

He fled from the sword and hid in the scabbard. (African 
— Youba). 

He ran from the wolf and fell in with the bear. (Russian). 

I escaped the thunder and fell into the lightning. 

In avoiding Charybdis he fell into Scylla. (Latin). 

I was escaping from the Ram and fell on hard work. 

Out a-do watah, inside a-putto-putto — i.e. Out of the 
water, inside the mud. (British Guiana). 

Out of the Frjring Pan into the Fire 227. 

Out of the briers into the thorns. (Gaelic). 

Out of the cauldron into the fire. (Irish — Ulster). 

Out of the fire into the embers. (Gaelic) . 

Out of God's blessing into the warm sun. (English). 

Out of the kettle into the fire. (Gaelic). 

Out of the mire into the brook. (Italian). 

Out of the mucksy into the pucksy— i.e. Out of the muck- 
heap into the quagmire . (English) . 

Out of the smoke into the flames. (Latin, Greek). 

Out of the peat-pot into the gutter. (Scotch). 

To come out of the fireplace and fall into the oven. 

To escape from the fire and fall into the hot ashes. 

To fall from the frying pan into the burning coals. (Italian). 

To fall from the frying pan into the coals. (Portuguese). 

To leap from the frying pan and throw oneself into the 
coals. (French). 


Being burnt out of my home I fled to the jungle where I 
found a fire twice as fierce. (Kumaun, Garhwal). 

From fame to infamy is a beaten road. (English). 

From fear of the ghost to clasp the corpse. (Malayan). 

From the Bel (fruit) to the Acacia (fruit), from earth to 
dust. (Hindustani). 

Having escaped falling into the well he jimiped into the 
fire. (Tamil). 

He fell from one bath-furnace to another — i.e. He fell 
from one trouble to another. (Osmanli). 

He fled from death and fell into it. (Arabian). 

He that is wounded with the prickles of Bel goes under the 
Acacia. — One has prickles, the other thorns. (Hindu- 

228 Proverbs Annotated 

He who was hurt by the Bel went for refuge under the 
Bubool and he that was hurt by the Bubool fl^d to the 

The Bel fruit is so large that it would hurt a man 
should it fall on his head; its rind is so hard that 
crows cannot pierce it with their bills; while the 
Bubool has prickles that would wound the feet. 
In avoiding one evil we fall into another, if we use not 

discretion. (Latin). 
In avoiding one vice fools rush into the opposite extreme. 

In escaping from the bull he fell into the brook. (Spanish). 
In shunning the bear he fell into the pit. (Arabian). 
It is said that the snake afraid of the charmer sought the 

friendship of the rat. (Hebrew). 
I trod in the mud and himg myself in the thorn bush — i.e. 
I consented to take trouble for a prospective benefit 
and got into more or worse trouble. (Osmanli). 
No sooner had I got free from the net when I fell into the 

cage. (Persian). 
One river is colder than the other. (Kashmiri). 
The cure may be worse than the disease. (English). 
The goat was fleeing from the wolf and spent the night in 

the butcher's house. (Pashto). 
Throw it away ! throw it away I Then we shall soon sleep 

without fire. (Oji). 
To avoid the smoke do not throw yourself into the fire. 

To call the tiger to chase away the dog. 

The Chinese generally apply this proverb to the 
Tartars who more than two centuries ago were 
called in to put down a rebellion and made them- 
selves masters. (Chinese). 
To fall into the jaws of the tiger after escaping from the 
mouth of the alligator. (Malayan) . 

Out of the Fr3dng Pan into the Fire 229 

To go from Ceca to Mecca, and from bad to worse — i.e. 

To go from one pilgrimage to another. (Spanish). 
(When they say) " Throw it away ! Throw it away I Then 

we shall soon sleep without fire. (Oji). 
While keeping a tiger from the front door, the wolf enters 

in at the back. (Chinese). 


The peacock though possessed of a beautiful 
tail has insignificant legs and feet. 

The saying is applied to proud people who 
seem to be unconscious of their faults and 

No one knows the age or origin of this saying. 
According to an East Indian tradition the pea- 
cock originally- had beautiful legs and feet, but 
having been cheated out of them, he continually 
mourned his loss and grew so ashamed of those 
that he possessed that he felt humiliated when- 
ever anyone looked at them. If by chance he 
happened to see them himself, particularly when 
dancing, he was sure to weep. From this tradi- 
tion there arose the Kumaun and Garhwal pro- 
verb, "The peacock looking at his feet wept. " 
The story is that the peacock, being proud of his 
beautiful legs and feet, as well as of his tail, ar- 
ranged to dance before the partridge, provided 
the partridge would afterwards show its ability 
in the same way, which it agreed to do. The 
peacock therefore danced with the greatest skill 
but the partridge seeing the graceful movements 
of its companion knew that it could not do so well 

Peacock, Look at Your Legs 231 

and refused to keep its promise and take turn 
unless the peacock would consent to trading legs. 
Being of a kindly disposition and feeling flattered 
by the suggestion the peacock readily assented 
to the proposition. Having thus obtained the 
peacock's legs and feet the partridge flew away 
to the jungles. 

There is a Hindustani proverb that seems to 
have been derived from the same story. The 
Hindu, when he sees a man of ability displaying 
marked talents among people who do not appre- 
ciate them, says "Who has seen the peacock dance 
in the forest." 

"The peacock hath an unsteadfast and evil 
shaped head, as it were the head of a serpent, and 
with a crest. And he hath a simple pace, and 
small neck and areared, and a blue breast, and a 
tail full of eyes distinguished and high with 
wonder fairness, and he hath foulest feet and 
rivelled. And he wondereth of the fairness of 
his feathers, and areareth them up as it were a 
circle about his head, and then he looketh to his 
feet, and seeth the foulness of his feet, and like 
as he were ashamed he letteth his feathers falL 
suddenly, and all the tail downward, as though he 
took no heed of the fairness of his feathers. And 
as one saith, he hath the voice of a fiend, head of 
a serpent, pace of a thief. For he hath an horrible 
voice." — Bartholomew Anglicus, a.d. 1263? 

232 Proverbs Annotated 

"The proud sun-braving peacock with his feathers, 
Walks all along, thinking himself a king, 
And with his voice prognosticates all weathers, 
Although God knows but badly he doth sing; 

But when he lookes downe to his base blacke f eete 
He droppes, and is asham'd of things unmeete." 
R. Chester, Love's Martyr. 


A dancer is never a good scholar because he guides his 

feet (like the peacock) better than a pen. (English). 
As proud as a peacock. (English). 
Bachelor, a peacock; betrothed, a lion; married, an ass. 

Fly pride, says the peacock. (English). 
He is as proud as a peacock and calls for ram's milk. 

(Modern Greek). 
If peacocks cry in the night there is rain to fall. (English) . 
K the peacock cries when he goes to roost and indeed 

much at any time it is a sign of rain. (English). 
If you exclaim, " O peacock! O peacock! " will it give you 

its feathers. (Spanish). 
I like writing with a peacock's quill because its feathers 

are all eyes. (English). 
March comes wi* adders* heads and gangs wi* peacocks* 

taUs. (Scotch). 
Peafowl utter loud cries before a storm and select a low 

perch. (English). 
Proud as a peacock, all strut and show. (English). 
The peacock cries before the rain. (English). 
The peacock has too little on his head and has too much on 

his tail. (German). 
The peacock looking at his own feet wept. (Kumaim, 

The sluggard like the peacock is afraid of rain. (Karanese) . 
The squalling of a peacock by night often foretells a rainy 

day. (English). 

Peacock, Look at Your Legs 233 

When all men praised the peacock for his beautiful tail, 
the birds cried out with one consent — " Look at his 
legs I and what a voice ! " (Japanese). 

When the peacock and guinea fowls scream and turkeys 
gobble expect rain. (English). 

When the peacock's distant voice you hear, are you in 
want of rain? Rejoice, 'tis a^nosrt here. (English). 

When the peacock loudly bawls, soon we'll have both rain 
and squalls. (English). 

Who has seen the peacock dance in the forest? (Hindu- 


\ 9, 121, 140, 167. 


The demand that a diseased man should heal 
himself before offering to cure others is found in 
proverbial forms everywhere. The Italians, 
French, Spaniards, Germans and Arabs all use the 
phrase — "Physician, heal thyself." It is so nat- 
ural to ask a healer to first cure his own malady 
that students have been unable to discover from 
whence the proverb came and where it was first 
spoken. It seems to have always been in com- 
mon use. Five and a half centuries before Christ 
JEsop told the story of a frog who had laid claim 
to being a physician, whose skill was so much 
greater than others that he could cure all dis- 
eases ; but his claim was soon challenged by a fox, 
who tauntingly called after him — "Say, Doc- 
tor, why do you proclaim that you can heal 
others when you cannot straighten your own 
crooked legs, nor cure the blotches and wrinkled 

When Jesus preached in His own home town 
his auditors wondered at His "words of grace." 
They could not deny His power as a public 
speaker nor question the purity of His message, 
but they were not ready to accept Him as the 

Physician, Heal Thyself 235 

promised Messiah for He was of humble birth. 
How could the son of Joseph the carpenter speak 
with authority? Jesus knew their thoughts and 
said, "Doubtless ye will say unto me this para- 
ble, 'Physician, heal thyself,' whatsoever we, 
have heard done at Capernaum, do also here in 
thine own country." Then, as though one pro- 
verb had suggested another, He explained that 
prejudice was the real cause of their unbelief, 
and quoted the well-known saying: "No prophet 
is acceptable in his own country." 

Notwithstanding the continued advance- 
ment in knowledge regarding the treatment of 
disease and the increasing skill of physicians, 
few proverbs speak approvingly of doctors; the 
reason being that they, like other men, are frail 
and subject to maladies that cannot be cured. 
So that the taunt will ever be flung — "Physi- 
cian, heal thyself." 

But the proverb is not always applied to 
physicians. It is often used in referring to men 
who offer to help others when they are unable 
to help themselves, or who claim consideration 
which is not their right, because of known de- 
fects in character or lack of ability. " The Panre 
(teacher) would teach others," say the Behar 
peasants, "but he himself stumbles." 

"Why do you note the splinter in your 
brother's eye, and fail to see the plank in your own 
eye? How can you say to your brother — 'Let 
me take out the splinter from your eye' when 

236 Proverbs Annotated 

there lies the plank in your own eye? You 
hypocrite ! Take the plank out of your own eye 
first, and then you will see properly how to take 
the splinter out of your brother's eye." — 
Matthew 7: 3-5, Moffats* Translation. 

"Do not forget that you are Cicero; one who 
has been used always to prescribe for and give 
advice to others; do not imitate those paltry 
physicians who pretend to cure other peoples' 
diseases, yet are not able to cure their own; but 
suggest rather to yourself the same lesson which 
you would give in the same case — Servius 
SuLPicius, B.C. 105-43. 

** Physicians pretending to cure the diseases of 
others, and are themselves loaded with com- 
plaints, are the immediate objects of the censure 
contained in this adage; but it may also be ap- 
plied to persons railing against vices to which 
they are themselves addicted." — Robert Bland, 
A.D. 1 8 14, Proverbs. 

"He (Jesus) had described the various ills 
from which His hearers were suffering and di- 
rected their attention to Himself as the physician 
sent to heal them. This is what the proverb cited 
refers to. Thus * You are going even to turn to 
ridicule what you have just heard, and say to 
me — Thou who pretendest to save humanity 
from its misery begin by delivering thyself from 
thine own." — Frederick Godet, a.d. 1812- 
1900, Commentary on Luke 4: 2j. 

Physician, Heal Thyself 237 


A healer of others, himself diseased. (Latin). 

Before healing others heal thyself. (Wolof — West Africa). 

If you can pull out, pull out your own gray hairs. (Oji — 

West Africa). 
Physician, heal thy lameness. (English). 
The doctor has a ringworm on his nose. (Assamese). 
The Panre woiild teach others, but he himself stumbles. 



(See proverbs imder "The pot calls the kettle black. ") 

A good example is the best sermon. (English). 

An ounce of practice is worth a pound of preaching. 

Example does more than much teaching. (German). 
Example is better than precept. (English) . 
Example teaches more than precepts. (English). 
Good example is half a sermon. (German). 
Good preachers give fruits not flowers. (Italian). 
He is a good preacher who follows his own preaching. 

(German) . 
He is past preaching who does not care to do well. 

Point not at other's spots with a foul finger. (English). 
Practice is better than precept. (English). 
Practice what you preach. (English). 
Precept begins, example accomplishes. (French). 
The Panre would teach others but he himself stumbles. 

There are many preachers who don't hear themselves. 

Why beholdest thou the mote in thy brother's eye, but 

considerest not the beam in thine own eye. (Hebrew). 

238 Proverbs Annotated 


A broken apothecary, a new doctor. (English). 

A half doctor near is better than a whole doctor afar. 

A lucky physician is better than a learned one. (German) . 
A new doctor, a new apothecary. (English). 
Better wait on the cook than the doctor. (English). 
Doctors make the very worst patients. (English). 
Each physician thinks his pills the best. (German). 
Every man at forty is either a fool or a physician. (English) . 
He who has suffered is the physician. (Modem Greek). 
Feastings are the physician's harvest, Christmas. 

It may have been that the word "Christmas" at 
the end of the proverb was originally placed at 
the beginning. (English). 
Honor a physician before thou hast need of him. (English) . 
If doctors fail what shall avail. (English) . 
No good doctor ever takes physics. (Italian). 
No man is a good physician who has never been sick. 

That city is in a bad case whose physician has the gout. 

The barber must be yoimg and the physician old. (Ger- 
The best surgeon is he who has been hacked himself. 

The disobedience of the patient make the physician seem 

cruel. (English). 
The doctor seldom takes physic. (English, Italian). 
The physician can cure the sick but he cannot cure the 

dead. (Chinese). 
The physician cannot drink medicine for the patient. 

You need not doubt, you are a doctor. (English) . 

Physician, Heal Thyself 239 


A new doctor, a new grave digger. (German). 

An ignorant doctor is no better than a murderer. (Chinese) . 

A loquacious doctor is successful. (Tamil). 

A physician is an angel when employed, but a devil when 

one must pay him. (German) . 
A young physician shotild have three graveyards. (Ger- 
Do not dwell in a city whose Governor is a physician. 

Fond of lawyer, little wealth; fond of doctor, little health. 

God healeth and the physician has the thanks. (English). 
God keep me from judge and doctor. (Turkish). 
God is the restorer of health and the physician puts the 

fee in his pocket. (Italian). 
He who kills a thousand people is half a doctor. (Tamil). 
Hussars pray for war and the doctor for fever. (German) . 
If the doctor cures the sun sees it; if he kills the earth 

hides it. (Scotch). 
If you have a friend who is a doctor take off your hat to 

him, and send him to your enemy. (Spanish). 
If you have a friend who is a physician send him to the 

house of your enemy. (Portuguese). 
It is God that cures and the doctor gets the money. 

Leaches kill with license. (English). 
No physician is better than three. (German). 
One doctor makes work for another. (English). 
Physicians* faults are covered with earth and rich men's 

with money. (English). 
Physicians are costly visitors. (English). 
The blimders of physicians are covered by the earth. 

(English, Portuguese). 
The doctor is often more to be feared than the disease. 


240 Proverbs Annotated 

The doctor says that there is no hope and, as he does the 

killing, he ought to know. (Spanish). 
The doctor's child dies not from disease but from medicine. 

The earth covers the mistakes of physicians. (Italian, 

The earth hides as it takes the mistakes of physicians. 

The patient is not likely to recover who makes the doctor 

his heir. (English). 
The physician owes all to the disease and the disease 

nothing to the physician. (English). 
The physician owes all to the patient and the patient owes 

nothing to him but a little money. (English). 
The physician takes the fee but God sends the cure. 

(German, Spanish). 
Time cures more than the doctor. (English). 
'Tis not the doctor who should drink physic. (Italian). 
When the physician can advise the best patient is dead. 

When you call a physician call the judge to make your will. 

While the doctors consult the patient dies. (English). 
With respect to gout the physician is but a lout. (English). 
Who has a physician has an executioner. (German). 



Exalt a boor and he will become proud and 

A man who acquires wealth suddenly is apt to 
spend his money freely and indulge in wild 

While the origin of this proverb is not posi- 
tively known it probably came from the preten- 
sions of liberated slaves. In olden times the 
slave class was made up of war captives, victims 
of seizure, some who chose slavery for support 
and those who were forced into servitude through 
debt or crime. Many captives of war, particu- 
larly those who were taken by the Romans, were 
educated in the schools and skilled in the arts 
but the great mass of bondmen were ignorant and 
coarse in their feelings, mere "Hewers of wood 
and drawers of water. " No more vivid picture of 
pride without cause could have presented itself 
to the ancients than the assumption of a liber- 
ated slave who sought to impress others with his 
importance by assuming the ways of the free 
bom. Claudius declared that "nothing is more 
obnoxious than a low person raised to a high 
i6 241 

242 . Proverbs Annotated 

position" and Publius Syrus said that "Fortune 
by being too lavish of her favors on a man only 
makes a fool of him." It is a common saying 
among the negroes of Ashanti, Africa, that 
"When a slave is freed he will call himself a 
Sonneni," that is, of exalted rank — the Sonna 
being the highest class. 

A curious prayer proverb comes from the dis- 
trict of Bannu in the Punjab, India, where the 
Almighty is addressed as follows: "Mayest thou 
not give a poor wretch a goat to catch hold of by 
the legs." As the legs of a goat are held when it 
is milked it is thought that a poor wretch would 
abuse the animal should he own one, as the de- 
graded everywhere abuse authority when they 
have it in possession. 

Bible References: Deut. 31: 20; 32: 15; 
Neh. 9: 25, 26; Prov. 26: i, 8. 

"Hath that poor monarch taught thee to insult? 
It needs not, nor it boots thee not, proud queen, 
Unless the adage must be verified, 
That beggars mounted run their horse to death." 
Shakespeare, a.d. 1564-1616, King Henry VI. 

*'A proud beggar when he is once mounted so 
high, as to keep his coach — which was only 
invented for cripples — to carry him in triumph 
above the earth, thinks it below him to look down 
upon his inferiors, and inconsistent with his 
grandeur, to take notice of Httle people that 

Set a Beggar on Horseback 243 

stand in the way of his impetuous career or 
imperious contempt." — Oswald Dykes, a.d. 
1707. Moral Reflections; 

"In short every page or shipkennel who form- 
erly waited upon my Lord or my Lady Some- 
body, that has got preferment a nd money, sets 
up for a gentleman now-a-days, and is as proud 
as any beggar in the proverb upon horseback 
that gallops headlong without either fear or wit 
upon the precipice of ambition and the brink of 
ruin." — Oswald Dykes, a.d. 1707. Moral Re- 

"Such is the sad effect of wealth — rank pride — 
Mount but a beggar, how the rogue will ride." 

John Wolcott, a.d. 1738-18 19. 

"There is an old and vulgar saying about a 
'beggar on horseback' which I would not for 
the world have applied to these reverend phil- 
osophers ; but I must confess that some of them, 
when they are mounted on those fiery steeds are 
as wild in their covetings as was Phaeton of 
yore when he aspired to manage the chariot of 
Phoebus." — Washington Irving, a.d. 1783- 
1859, Knickerbocker History of New York. 

"Set a beggar on horseback and he'll ride to 
the devil." The direction in which he will ride 
depends entirely on the character of the beggar — 
a poor man suddenly risen to power. Some sink 
over the other side of the horse and drop into 

244 Proverbs Annotated 

utter sloth and pampered sensualism but others 
do their best to ride well and sometimes suc- 
ceed. Masaniello and Rienzi did not ride long 
in the best way; but several patriots who have 
rapidly risen from obscurity to power have set 
noble examples. " — Household Words, February 
7, 1852. 

"Of the danger of unearned elevation we have 
two — the coarse English : "Set a beggar on horse- 
back and he will ride to the ," and the 

Italian: "Everything may be borne but good 
fortune." Most of them, however, are of a more 
healthy and satisfactory character, showing that 
however capricious the fickle goddess may be she 
is looked to with hope, and sometimes for 
justice. The English think that "Every dog has 
his day" and that "There are as good fish in the 
sea as ever came out of it." The grave Roman 
averred in more classical language that "The 
sun of all days has not yet gone down" ; the Ital- 
ian that "The world is for him that has pa- 
tience" but the Persian saying is the most beauti- 
ful and the most faithful — "A stone that is fit 
for the wall is not left in the way" — that tells 
men to deserve the favors of fortune by being fit 
to receive them, and cherishes both effort and 
hope." — Eliza Cook's Journal, Feb. 19, 1853. 


A beggar ennobled does not know his own kinsman. 

A beggar's son struts like a peer. (Hindustani). 

Set a Beggar on Horesback 245 

A clown enriched knows neither relation nor friend. 

A lion growls not in a den fuU of straw but in a den of meat. 

A little lizard does not know its mother. (Nigeria). 
A man begs and then gets up on an elephant. (Kashmiri). 
A man well moimted is always proud. (French) . 
A novice was dressed in breeches and looked at them 

every step. (Modem Greek). 
A poor man's child with a fine name — i.e. A boorish man 

apes the gentleman. (Bengalese). 
As soon as mulatto is able to own an old horse he will tell 

you that his mother wasnH a nigger. (Martinique 

A two legged mounting a four legged. (Kashmiri). 
A wild boar in place of a pig would ravish the town, and a 

slave made king would spare nobody. (Youba — 

Begging and riding upon a horse! A proud beggar. 

Beggars mounted ride a horse to death. (English). 
But yesterday out of the shell, today he despises the shell. 

Entering by the eye of a needle and coming out by the 

elephant's stable door. (Kashmiri). 
Ever3rthing may be borne but good fortune. (Italian). 
First your walking stick and then your pet daughter. 

Having asked to be your equal he wants to marry yoiu: 

daughter. (Kashmiri). 
Give a cup to the low and he swells himself with water — 

i.e. He is puffed up with pride. (Panjabi). 
He descends (like) the foot of a crow, and ascends (like) 

the foot of a camel. 

According to Arabian custom, guests when eating 
with their fingers from a common dish consider it 
good manners to take only a small portion at a 
time and hold their fingers close together for that 

246 Proverbs Annotated 

purpose. An ill-bred person will show his condi- 
tion by trying to follow the example of others, 
putting his fingers in the dish like the foot of a 
crow, but withdrawing them with a fist full, 
making his hand look like the foot of a camel. 
He has no trousers and yet orders a tent. (Persian). 
He has put on a sword and says that he is a servant of the 

king. (Persian). 
He'll gang mad on a horse whose proud in a ponnie. 

He sprang from a chestnut shell and he does not admire 

his husk. (Osmanli). 
He swells himself like a turkey cock. (Osmanli). 
He who is on horseback no longer knows his own father. 

His family had no cow for seven generations, but he takes 
a " Kariya " and goes milking. 

A "kariya" is a bamboo chunga or milk pail. He 
makes a great show of milking. (Assamese). 
If the plowman becomes a " lord " yet he is not then even 

fit to sit upon the matting. (Kashmiri). 
Just put a mulatto on horseback and he'll tell you his 

mother wasn't a negress. (Louisiana Creole). 
Mayest thou not give a poor wretch a goat to catch hold of 

by the legs. (Pashto). 
No pride like that of an enriched beggar. (English, 

Put a beggar on horseback and he does not trot, but he 

gallops. (Dutch). 
Set a beggar on horseback and he will ride to the devil. 

She who from being a slave is become the mistress pierces 
the bath basin with stones; he who from being a 
servant is now a muezzin, shakes down the minaret 
with his voice. 

A muezzin is a mosque chanter. (Osmanli). 

Set a Beggar on Horseback 247 

So is it worn, twizt the pack-saddle and the straw cloth. 

The ass is the same but the pannel different. (Persian). 

The be jeweled leg of a leper. (Malayan). 

The blown out parrot fish that has only wind inside it. 

The bug that mimics the tortoise. (Malayan). 

The cup fell into the hands of one who never saw one and 
she drank till she died. (Hindustani). 

The clown saw himself in plush breeches and was insolent 
as could be. (Spanish). 

The dog of the master of the house mounts upon the chief 
sofa. (Osmanli). 

The dog saw himself in fine breeches.— He would not 
recognize other dogs. (Spanish). 

The gourd grew and lengthened its neck. (Moroccan). 

The horn in ivory motmtings. (Malayan). 

The man in boots does not know the man in shoes. (Eng- 

The mean man being exalted regards the earth as a pot- 
sherd. (Bengalese). 

The more riches a fool has the greater fool he is. (English). 

The onion grew and became rotmd and forgot its former 
state. (Arabian). 

The peasant saw himself in fine breeches and he was as 
insolent as could be. (Spanish). 

The plated ware that shows its nature when scratched. 

There is no pride like a beggar grown rich. (French). 

The snake that apes the dragon. (Malayan) . 

The tortoise that affects arboreal habits. (Malayan). 

The Turk, if he be mounted on a horse, thinks " I am a 
bay." (Osmanli). 

The worm that plays the serpent. (Malayan). 

They ask the mule, " Who is your father? " He says 
"The horse is my uncle." (Osmanli). 

Time made (him) come forth from the mud. (Osmanli). 

248 Proverbs Annotated 

What is past is past. (Persian). 

What ! You follow the trade of a barber and pretend to be 
independent? — A fling at one who being in some lowly 
business puts on the air of importance. (Persian). 

When a beggar gets on horseback the devil cannot out- 
ride him. (German). 

When a clown is on a mule he remembers neither God nor 
the world. (Spanish). 

When a Donko becomes rich he runs mad. 

A Donko is one of a negro tribe in the interior of 
Western Africa. The Donkos furnish the Oji 
people with most of their slaves. (Oji). 

When a man becomes rich the town goes to ruin.— He 
loses all his public spirit in his effort to please himself. 

When a slave becomes a freeman he will drink rain water 
— i.e. He will become so lazy that he will drink 
water that is nearest at hand. (Oji). 

When a slave girl becomes mistress she does not mind 
sending her slave girls out in bad weather. (Hindu- 

When a slave is emancipated he will call himself a noble- 
man. (Oji). 

When a slave is freed he will call himself Sonneni. 

When claninclo get ye-ye-tickle he t'ink hese*f gubnah. 
(British Guiana). 

When fortime smiled on a mean person he ordered an 
umbrella to be bought at midnight. (Telugu). 

When he had filled his belly he began to vex the poor. 

When the goat goes to church he does not stop till he gets 
to the altar. (Old Irish). 

When the poor man grows rich he beholds the stars at 
noonday. — i.e. He is purse proud and insolent. 

Set a Beggar on Horseback 249 

When the slave is freed he thinks himself a nobleman. 

When wert thou changed into a queen, O pawn? — The 
reference is to a game of chess. (Arabian). 

Wondrous God's power 1 Wondrous God's caprice! The 
muskrat oils his head with jasmine essence. (Hindu- 

Yesterday he came out of his egg, today he does not admire 
its shell. (Osmanli). 


It has been thought that this saying is an 
adaptation from the French novel Le Gendre 
but the Roman historian Quintus Curtius in the 
first century declared that the Bachrians used the 
proverb so that it must have been quoted more 
than two thousand years ago. 

"Silent and quiet conspirators," says Brewer, 
"are the most dangerous" as "Still waters run 
deep." This opinion seems to be shared by 
people of all climes. The Portuguese bid us 
"Beware of the man who never speaks and the 
dog that never barks" and the Russians tell us 
that "In a still pool swarm devils." 

The patriarch of Uz, knowing his own pain 
and grief, chided his friends for trying to minister 
to his comfort in their ignorance and called on 
them to be silent, saying, "Oh, that ye would al- 
together hold your peace! and it would be your 
wisdom" (Job 13:5). 

Yet it must not be forgotten that, like nearly 
all folk sayings, it is not always true. Talkers 
are not always fools, wise men are not always 
quiet. "Waves will rise on silent waters" and 
the restless sea continually beats against the 


Still Waters Run Deep 251 

"Even a fool when he holdeth his peace is 
counted wise; when he shutteth his lips, he is 
esteemed as prudent." — Proverbs 17:28. 

"Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep; 
And in his simple show he harbours treason. 
The fox barks not when he would steal the lamb. 
No, no, my sovereign; Gloucester is a man 
Unsoimded yet and full of deep deceit." 
William Shakespeare, a.d. 1564-1616, King Henry VI, 
Part 2. 

"Deep waters noiseless are; and this we know. 
That chiding streams betray small depth below. 
So when love speechless is, she doth express 
A depth in love and that depth bottomless." 

— ^Robert Herrick, a.d. i 591-1674. 

"As when the door is shut it cannot be seen 
what is within the house: so the mouth being 
shut up by silence, the folly that is within lieth 
undiscovered; and as in glasses and vessels so in 
men, the sound which they make showeth whether 
they be cracked or sound. An ass is known 
by his ears (saith the Dutch proverb) and so is a 
fool by his talk. As a bird is known by his note 
and a bell by his clapper, so is a man by his dis- 
course. Plutarch tells us that Megabysus, a 
nobleman of Persia, coming into Apelles', the 
painter's, work house, took upon him to speak 
something there concerning the art of painting 
and limning but he did it so absurdly that the 
apprentices jeered him and the master could not 

252 Proverbs Annotated 

bear with him." — John Trapp, a.d. 1601-1669, 
Comment on Job 13:5. 

"A wise man will be of few words, as being 
afraid of speaking amiss. He that has knowledge 
and aims to do good with it is careful when he 
does speak to speak to the purpose, and therefore 
says little, that he may take time to deliberate 
upon it. He spares his words because they are 
better spared than ill spent. 

** This is generally taken for such a sure indica- 
tion of wisdom that a fool may gain the reputa- 
tion of being a wise man if he have but wit 
enough to hold his tongue, to hear and see and 
say little. If a fool hold his peace men of candor 
will think him wise, because nothing appears to 
the contrary and because it will be thought that 
he is making observations on what others say, 
and gaining experience, and is consulting with 
himself what he shall say that he may speak 
pertinently. See how easy it is to gain men's 
good opinion and to impose upon them. But 
when a fool holds his peace God knows his heart 
and the folly that is bound there; thoughts are 
words to Him and therefore He cannot be de- 
ceived in His judgment of men. — Matthew 
Henry, a.d. 1662-17 14, Comment on Proverbs 

" It has been safely enough alleged that of two 
men equally successful in the business of life, the 
man who is silent will be generally deemed to 
have more in him than the man who talks. The 

Still Waters Run Deep 253 

latter 'shows his hand'; everybody can tell the 
exact length of his tether ; he has trotted himself 
out so often that all his points and paces are 
matters of notoriety. But of the taciturn man 
little or nothing is known. Omne ignotum pro 
magnifico : * The shallow murmur, but the deep are 
dumb.' Friends and acquaintances shake their 
heads knowingly and exclaim with an air of au- 
thority that * so and so' has a great deal more 
in him than people imagine. * They are as often 
wrong as right; but what need that signify to 
the silent man? He can sustain his reputation 
as long as he Hkes by the simple process of hold- 
ing his tongue.'" — Francis Jacox, a.d. 1874, 
Scripture Proverbs. 

" It is written among the Proverbs of Solomon 
that 'Even a fool when he holdeth his peace is 
counted wise.' Even the fool that shutteth his 
lips is esteemed a man of understanding. The 
wise king declares in another place that a fool's 
mouth is his destruction and that his lips are the 
snare of his soul. Let him keep his mouth closed 
and his folly is an unknown quantity; out of sight 
out of mind. Let him keep his lips shut and wis- 
dom shall be imputed unto him. Of him lookers- 
on will say, a discreet man that — For they are 
only lookers-on, not listeners. To listen would 
break the spell. As it is they are apt to count 
him as deep as he is still. Do not still waters 
run deep?" — Francis Jacox, Secular Annota- 

254 Proverbs Annotated 


Deepest waters stillest go. (English). 

It is the shallowest water that makes the most noise. 

(Irish— Ulster). 
It is the smooth waters that rxm the deepest. (Irish — 

Quiet waters, deep bottoms. (Belgian). 
Shaal waters mak the maist din. (Scotch). 
Silent men, like still waters, are deep and dangerous. 

Steady and deep. (Hindustani). 
Smooth waters run deep. (English). 
The deepest rivers flow with the smallest noise. (Latin). 
There is no worse water than that which sleeps. (French). 
Waters that are deep do not bubble. (English). 
Where water is stillest it is deepest. (Gaelic). 


A silent dog will bite the heels. (Tamil). 

A smooth river washes away its banks. (Servian). 

As the river sleeps. (Telugu). 

Barking dogs seldom bite. (English). 

Believe not that the stream is shallow because its surface 

is smooth. (Latin). 
Beware of a man who never speaks and of a dog who never 

barks. (Portuguese). 
Beware of a silent dog and still water. (English). 
Beware of the smooth ctu:rents of a river and of a man's 

glances on the grotmd — still waters run deep and a 

man who looks down is not to be trusted. (Osmanli). 
Dumb dogs and still waters are dangerous. (German). 
Empty vessels give the greatest soimd. (English). 
Every devil can hunt his own swamp — See " In a still pool 

swarm devils." (Russian). 
From a silent man and from a dog that does not bark 

deliver us. (Spanish). 

Still Waters Run Deep 255 

From smooth (or still) water God preserve me ; from rough 

(or rimning) I will preserve myself. (Italian, Spanish). 
In a still pool swarm devils. 

The reference is to the Vodyanoy or water sprite. 
In the coldest flint there is hot fire. (English). 
It is the empty car that makes the greatest noise — when in 

motion. (Irish — Ulster). 
It is the empty cart that makes the noise. (Irish — ^Armagh). 
It is the water which stands there calm and silent that 

takes (drowns) a man. (Ashanti). 
Mistrust the water that does not warble and the stream 

that does not chirp. (Armenian). 
Nothing rattles in the kettle except the bones — Shallow 

people do the most talking. (Syrian). 
Still waters breed worms. (Italian). 
Take heed of still waters, the quick pass away. (English). 
The empty kettle sings, not the full one. (Old Sanskrit). 
The empty pot rattles, the full one is silent. (Panjabi). 
The greatest resonance is in the empty barrel (Irish — 

The most covered fire is the strongest. (French). 
The stillest htmiors are always worst. (English). 
Under white ashes there is glowing coal. (Italian). 
Water beneath straw. (Syriac). 

Where the stream is shallowest greatest is its noise. 


Know your limitations and go not beyond them. 

The saying is said to have had its origin in the 
following old Palistinean folk story: A certain 
old man, realizing that he could not live long 
desired to commit the management of his prop- 
erty, which was large, to one of his three sons 
who were associated with him in business. Not 
knowing which was the most capable to assume 
the responsibility he decided to test them by a 
ruse. Providing himself with a quilted cotton 
coverlet that was too short for his bed he feigned 
illness and sent for each of his sons in turn to 
come and nurse him, beginning with the oldest. 
The first had scarcely taken his place in the sick 
room before the old man complained that his 
feet were cold and that the coverlet, or ilhalf, as 
it was called, was not spread over them ; where- 
upon the son drew it down over his feet, but in so 
doing uncovered his neck and shoulders. This 
seemed to displease the old man for he at once 
became enraged and declared that it was quite 
as important to have his chest and arms covered 
as his feet; so the young man drew the ilhalf up 

Stretch Your Legs According to Coverlet 257 

again, at the same time asked his father if he 
might go and get a larger one as there were plenty 
in the house. "No!" retorted the old man in 
apparent anger, "I am too weak to bear any 
greater weight on my body." The son patiently 
remained by his father's bedside all day and the 
next night drawing the ilhalf up and down ac- 
cording to his wishes and returning kindness and 
service for fretful murmurings and open com- 
plaints. Then the second son was called and 
passed through a like experience, dutifully obey- 
ing his father's orders and patiently enduring his 
father's faultfindings. He, like his brother, sug- 
gested a larger covering but was not permitted to 
go for it. At last the youngest son was sent for, 
and ministered to his father with the same pa- 
tient durance as did his brothers, but observed 
that the old man, who constantly complained of 
weakness, was not so weak but that he could eat 
large meals with a relish. This led him to sus- 
pect that his father was deceiving him by feign- 
ing illness. Excusing himself for a few moments 
he went into the garden and secured a flexible rod 
from a pomegranate tree. Concealing it from 
sight he waited for the old man to speak. It was 
not long before he began as before to grumble 
over his cold extremities; but instead of seeking 
to appease his father the young man seized the 
rod and brought it down on the bed with great 
violence, close to the old man's feet, saying as 
he did so, "Very well, father! stretch your legs 

258 Proverbs Annotated 

according to your coverlet. ' ' The old man was so 
surprised and frightened that he jumped out of 
bed, and, when his temper had subsided, com- 
mended the young man for his shrewdness and re- 
fusal to allow anyone to impose upon him. Then 
he comm.itted to him all his affairs. 

"For the bed is shorter than that a man can 
stretch himself on it ; and the covering narrower 
than that he can wrap himself in it." — Isaiah 


A man should stretch out his feet after looking at the bed- 
clothes. (Kashmiri). 
Everyone stretches his legs according to the length of his 

coverlet. (English, Spanish, German, Portuguese). 
Extend not your feet beyond your blanket. (Modern 

Extend your feet according to the length of your sheet. 

In proportion to the length of thy garment stretch out thy 

leg. (Arabian). 
Make your soup according to your bread. (French). 
Stretch thy leg as long as thy bed. (Arabian). 
Stretch thy leg as long as thy carpet. (Arabian). 
Stretch thy leg as long as thy cloak. (Arabian). 
Stretch thy leg as long as thy cover. (Arabian). 
Stretch thy leg as long as thy rug. (Arabian). 
Stretch your arm no ftuther than your sleeve will reach. 

(English, Dutch). 
Stretch your feet only as far as your covering goes. 

To the measure of your bed stretch your feet. (Syrian) . 

Stretch Your Legs According to Coverlet 259 


According to his pinions the bird flies. (Danish). 
According to the bread must be the knife. (French), 
Everyone counts as much as he has. (German). 
Everyone must row with the oars he has. (German). 
Everyone signs as he has the gift and marries as he has 

the luck. (Portuguese). 
Everyone to his own calling and the ox to the plow. 

He is a fool who spends more money than he receives. 

He who spends more than he should shall not have to 

spend when he would. (English). 
Make a plaster as large as the sore. (English). 
Make not the tail broader than the wings. (English). 
Make not your sail too big for your ballast. (English). 
One must cut his coat according to his cloth. (German, 

English, Dutch). 
One must plow with the horses one has. (German). 
We must spend according to our income. (Italian). 

126, 362 

There seems to be a strange proclivity in many 
people to see in their fellow men the faults that 
mar their own characters and criticize them for 
indulging in habits against which they themselves 
are obliged to fight their hardest battles. This 
proclivity is so general that all nations have 
found it necessary to adopt some proverbial 
phrase to use when a man is heard severely 
criticizing others for sins of which he himself is 
guilty, or when the faultfinder's life is known to 
be such as to open him to the charge of incon- 
sistency. Over two thousand years ago ^Esop de- 
clared that every man carried two bags about 
with him, one hanging in front and the other 
behind; that the one in front was filled with his 
neighbors' faults and the one behind was filled 
with his own faults, and that accounted for the 
fact that no one was ever able to see his own 
defects but was always conscious of the defects 
of others. Jesus charged the people who were 
gathered about Him on the mountainside not 
to judge others lest they should in like manner 
be judged. ' ' Why beholdest thou, ' ' said He, * ' the 
mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest 

The Pot Calls the Kettle Black 261 

not the beam that is in thine own eye?" (Matt. 


The most careful research fails to throw any 
light on the origin of this saying. The thought 
found expression over two thousand years ago 
in many curious aphorisms that have changed 
their form by constant repetition but that have 
never lost their original meaning. 

"And so he that sees a mote in another man's 
eye, should do well to take the beam out of his 
own ; that people may not say — The pot calls the 
kettle black-arse, and the dead woman is afraid 
of her that is fleaed." — Miguel de Cervantes 
Saavedra, A.D., 1547-1616, Don Quixote. 

"In other men we faults can spy, 
And blame the mote that dims their eye; 
Each little speck and error find ; 
To our own stronger errors blind." 

John Gay, a.d. 1685-1732, Fables. 

"Judge not! The workings of his brain 
And of his heart thou canst not see; 
What looks to thy dim eyes a stain. 
In God's pure light may only be 
A scar, brought from some well- won field. 
Where thou wouldst only faint and yield. " 

A. A. Proctor, a.d. 1825-1864. 


A pig came up to a horse and said, " Your feet are crooked 

and your hair is worth nothing." (Russian). 
" Crooked Carlen " quoth the cripple to his wife. (Scotch). 

262 Proverbs Annotated 

Death said to the man with his throat cut, " How ugly you 

look." (Catalan). 
" Get away ! " The crow mocked the pig for his blackness. 

One ass nicknamed another " Long Ears." (German). 
Said the jackdaw to the crow, " Get away, nigger." 

Said the pot to the kettle, " Get away black face." 

Said the raven to the crow, " Get out of that, Blackamoor." 

The ass said to the cock " Big-headed." (Modem Greek). 
The clay pot wishes to laugh at the kon pot. (Trinidad 

The colander said to the needle, " Get away, you have a 

hole in you. " (Hindoo) . 
The cow rails at the pig for bemg black. (Chinese). 
The crow mocked the pig for his blackness. (Chinese). 
The earthen pot wishes to laugh at the iron pot. (Haytian). 
The frymg pan says to the kettle, "Avaunt, Black brows." 

The griddle calling the pot black bottom. (Irish — Ulster). 
The kiln calls the oven " Burnt house." (English). 
The kettle reproaches the kitchen spoon. " Thou Blackee," 

he said, " Thou idle babbler." 

The kitchen spoon here referred to is made of wood. 
The kettle calls the pot black-arse. (English). 
The kettle calls the saucepan " smutty." (Turkish). 
The lame man laughs at the legless. (Bulgarian). 
The mortar complaining to the drug. (Telugu, Malay). 
The mud laughs at the puddle. (Mauritius Creole). 
The pan says to the pot " Keep off or you'll smutch me." 

The pot calls the pan burnt-arse. (English). 
The pot punishes the kettle ; you are both black. (Bohem- 

The Pot Calls the Kettle Black 263 

The pot reproaches the kettle because it is black. (Dutch). 
The pot upbraids the kettle that it is black. (Dutch). 
The pot said to the pot, " Your face is black." (Osmanli). 
The raven bawls hoarsely to the crow " Get out of that, 

Blackamoor." (Spanish). 
The raven said to the rook, " Stand away, black coat." 

The sal is laughmg at the singi, " You are as worthless as I 
am, therefore there comes no suitor for either of us." 
The sal and the singi are Assamese fishes. The 
proverb is applied to young women who do not 
know how to weave and spin. (Assamese). 
The saucepan laughs at the pipkin. (French, Italian). 
The shovel insults the poker. (Russian). 
The shovel scoffs at the poker. (French). 
The sieve says to the needle, " You have a hole in your 

tail." (Bengalese). 
The sieve with a thousand holes finds fault with the sup. 
The "sup" is a basket used in sifting grain. 
" Thou art a little bird," said the raven to the starling. 


At the foot of the lighthouse it is dark. (Japanese). 
Chase flies away from your own head. 

A retort to a critic. (Japanese). 
Dirty nosed folk always want to wipe other folks* noses. 

Do not ridicule the short and thin bearded as long as thou 

thyself are without a beard. 

This proverb is now obsolete. (Arabian). 
" Fly pride," says the peacock. (English). 
" God helps the fool," said the idiot. (English). 
He sees the speck in another's eye but does not the film 

in his own. (Hindustani). 

264 Proverbs Annotated 

He sees not the beam in his own eye, he sees the fragments 
that are in the eyes of other people. 

The fragments referred to in the proverb are small 
pieces of straw. (Osmanli). 
He who has done eating will say, " He who eats at night 

is a sorcerer." (Oji — West African). 
It is said that a yotmg palm leaf is laughing at the dry leaf 

because it is falling off. (Tamil). 
Let everyone sweep the snow from his own door and not 
busy himself with the frost on his neighbor's tiles. 
Man is blind to his own faults but keen sighted to perceive 

those of others. (Latin). 
Take the pestle from your own eye, then take the mote 
from another's. 

By pestle and mote the people of Western India 
intended to refer to a certain heavy wooden 
instnmient commonly used by them in pounding 
and a very small blade of spear grass that is apt 
to adhere to the clothing. (Marathi). 
The blind of one eye perceives not the film on her own eye 

but sees the speck on another's. (Hindustani). 
The defects in the eyelash are not apparent to the eye. 

The kettle blackens the frying pan. (French). 
The kettle blackens the stove. (French). 
The man without clothes busying himself in making 

jackets for dogs. (Singalese). 
The mortar's complaint to a drug. (Malayan). 
The raven chides blackness. (English). 
" The roach has come out of the flour barrel," said the 
women of color who whitened their faces with rice 
powder. (Mauritius Creole). 
The vulture says that the civet cat stinks — the vulture is 

said to have a bad odor. (Ashanti). 
They know not their own defects who search for defects 
in others. (Sanskrit). 

The Pot Calls the Kettle Black 265 

They that live in glass houses should not throw stones. 

Though he sees a splinter in people's eyes he does not see 

the beam that is in his own eye. (Osmanli). 
Throwing water at the buttocks of others when one's own 

are wet. (Assamese). 
"We ourselves have dirty noses and yet are laughing at 

other people. (Marathi). 
When one inquired what the ugly man was doing — he was 

counting all the good looking people. (Telugu). 
When your house is of glass do not throw stones at your 

neighbor's house. (Kurdish). 


there's many a slip tWixt the cup and the lip 

This proverb is very old though it is not true 
that it "is probably the oldest of all familiar 
English sayings," as a writer has recently de- 
clared. It is believed to have originated in 
Greece and spread from that country to one dis- 
trict after another until it is now used in almost 
every land. The following story is said to have 
given rise to the saying, also to the French 
phrases : "Between the hand and the mouth the 
soup is often spilt" and "Wine poured out is 
not swallowed." 

Ancaeos, the son of Poseidon, Supreme Lord 
of the sea, according to Greek mythology was a 
harsh man and acted toward his slaves with the 
greatest severity. At times he was so cruel that 
it seemed to them almost impossible to endure 
his treatment. Under the burden of his inhu- 
manity one of them prophesied that he would 
never be permitted by the gods to taste again the 
wine from his vineyard. When the prophecy 
was repeated to him he laughed at the seer and 
continued his harsh treatment. Finally the 
season for wine-making returned and, when the 
grapes were gathered and pressed Ancaeos called 

There's Many a Slip 267 

for a cup of the newly made beverage, repeating 
the prediction of the slave that he would never 
be permitted by the gods to drink. When the 
wine was brought he sent for the seer that he 
might in his presence drink thereof and jeer at him 
and taunt him for his fooHsh augury. The man 
came as he was ordered and Ancaeos lifted the 
cup and repeated to him his prophecy. "There's 
many a slip twixt the cup and the lip," returned 
the slave. At that moment a messenger rushed 
into the room with the tidings that a large wild 
boar had entered the vineyard and was lay- 
ing it waste. Ancaeos quickly returned the 
glass to the table and ran out to stay the 
ravages of the boar and preserve his vines 
but the task was more difficult than he had 
thought. He was killed in his encounter with 
the animal and the slave-prophet's words be- 
came a proverb. 

"The ground of a certain rich man brought 
forth: and he reasoned within himself, saying, 
what shall I do because I have not where to 
bestow my fruits. And he said, this will I do: 
I will pull down my bams and build greater; and 
there will I bestow all my grain and my goods. 
And I will say to my soul. Soul, thou hast much 
goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, 
eat, drink and be merry. But God said unto 
him, Thou foolish one, this night is thy soul re- 
quired of thee, and the things which thou hast 

268 Proverbs Annotated 

prepared, whose shall they be? So is he that 
layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich 
toward God." — Luke 12 :i6-2 1 , Revised Version. 

"Oft expectation fails, and most oft there 
Where most it promises; and oft it hits 
Where hope is coldest; and despair most fits." 
William Shakespeare, a.d. 1564-1616, All's Well that 
Ends Well. 

"But Mousie, thou art no thy lane. 
In proving foresight may be vain: 
The best-laid schemes o' mice and men, 

Gang aft a-gley. 
And lea'e us naught but grief and pain, 
For promised joy. " 
Robert Burns, a.d. i 759-1 796, To a Mouse. 

variant proverbs 

Between the hand and the chin. (Latin). 

Between the hand and the mouth the soup is spilt. 

Many things happen between the cup and the lip. (Greek) . 
There's many a slip from the hand to the mouth. (Irish). 
The soup is often lost between the hand and the mouth. 

(French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese). 
Twixt the spoon and the lip the morsel may slip. (Dutch). 
Wine poured out is not swallowed. (French). 


All thmgs come not to pass which the mind has conceived. 

Between the mouth and the spoon great trouble often 

arises. (Latin, French). 

There's Many a Slip 269 

Between two stools the breech comes to the ground. 

(French, Dutch). 
Between wording and workmg is a long road. (German). 
He is to be married, they say; but sometimes the marriage 

ring slips from one's finger. (Mauritius Creole). 
Hope is a good breakfast but a bad supper. (English). 
No one so sure but he may miss. (Dutch). 
The monkey says that what has gone into the belly is his, 

but what is in his mouth is not his. (Oji). 
The \mlooked-for often comes. (German). 
What one swallows is his own but not what he is chewing. 




The meaning of this proverb is obscure. As 
commonly understood it indicates that in the 
struggle of life those who are least able to protect 
themselves are driven back from places of oppor- 
tunity to be finally crushed. Walter K. Kelly, 
commenting on the saying, had this thought in 
mind when he reminded his readers that in a 
crowd the wall was the worst place for any- 
one to be. Quoting the Dutch proverb, 
"Where the dam is lowest the water first 
runs over," he says that "people overrun and 
oppress those who are least able to resist," 
thus confirming what he believed was the true 
teaching of the saying. 

According to J. O. HalHwell, "To go to the 
wall" meant in olden times to be set aside or 
slighted, which is less severe than to be crowded 
and crushed by competition. 

But there are several other explanations that 
are more pleasing — ^f or example : The aged go to 
the wall for support, the blind reach out their 
hands to the wall for guidance and feeble folk 
generally have a sense of security and protection 
close to its sheltering stones. " In a fray the weak 

The Weakest Go to the Wall 271 

are strong," says an Italian proverb. They flee 
to the wall and are safe. 

A correspondent of the Westminister Gazette — 
June 8, 191 8 — gives still another explanation. 
"I had it from a Scotchman of no mean literary 
ability," he says that "in the Middle Ages, when 
roads and pavements as we know them were not 
in existence, the roads received most of the waste 
and refuse from the adjoining houses, and gen- 
erally collected all the filth of the town or city. 
The causeys or causeways were at some consider- 
able height above the road, and it was the cus- 
tom of a kindly minded person or a gentleman to 
see that children, women, and old people were 
placed against the wall to be saved from the 
splashing filth from the road, or the possible 
danger of falling into it." This explanation 
conforms to that of Nathan Bailey (a.d. 1721) 
who declared that the saying was "a compliment 
paid to the female sex or those to whom one 
would show respect by letting them go nearest 
the wall or houses upon a supposition of its being 
the cleanest." 

Perhaps the best explanation is found in the 
church practice of our forefathers who required 
the strongest people among the worshippers to 
stand and later permitted them to be seated on 
benches and at the same time provided stone 
seats along the wall for the weak. In advocacy 
of this view a writer in Notes and Queries quoted 
this passage from Miller's Rambles Round the 

272 Proverbs Annotated 

Edge Hills: "On the north and west side of the 
north aisle the old stone seats against the wall of 
the church remain. In those days there were no 
seats in the midst of the church and the congre- 
gation stood or knelt. When the clergyman 
commenced his sermon he used to say : ' Let the 
weakest go to the wall,* hence the proverb so 
strangely perverted from its original meaning." 
Mr. J. A. Sparvel Bayly, writing about old 
English parochial churches, says, "A stone bench, 
in some instances, ran round the north, south and 
west walls, to which the weary might retire for a 
while. In Chaldon church, Surrey, a long low 
stone seat ran along the wall of the south isle, 
until 1 87 1, when it was 'restored* away; 
and in Acton church, near Nanturich, there 
is still a stone bench along the wall of the 
south aisle.** 

"We grope for the wall like the blind; 
yea, we grope as they that have no eyes; 
we stumble at noonday as in the twilight; 
among them that are lusty we are as dead 
men." — Isaiah 59: 10. 

"The weaker goeth to the pot: Yea, and God wot, 
Some the weaker for oft going to the pot." 

John Heywood, a.d. i 497-1 580, Epigrams. 

In the above epigram Heywood used the word 
pot in the first line to indicate either total de- 
struction, or to the melting pot of the refiner. 

The Weakest Go to the Wall 273 

*' Gregory: That shows thee a weak slave, for 
the weakest goes to the wall. 

''Samson, *Tis true; and therefore women, 
being the weaker vessels, are ever thrust to the 
wall; therefore I will push Montague's men from 
the wall and •thrust his maids to the wall." — 
William Shakespeare, a.d. 1564-16 16, Romeo 
and Juliet. 

** In the days of our forefathers the streets were 
narrow and there were no pavements; while 
discharging pipes and running gutters by the 
sides of the walls made the center of the road a 
more agreeable place for the traveler. Wheeled 
conveyances of diverse sorts passing and re- 
passing forced the foot passenger to the side of 
the road, and any tumult or street fight would 
drive the conquered pell-mell to take refuge in 
the houses or to the shelter of the wall out of the 
rush. Hence the proverb: The weakest goes to 
the wall. In Romeo and Juliet Sampson and 
Gregory are found in the market place of Verona 
and the former declares : * I will take the wall of 
any man or maid of Montague's' ; to whom the 
latter unsympathetically replies, 'That shows 
thee a weak slave, for the weakest go to the 
wall.'" — F. Edward Hulme, a.d. 1841-1909, 
Proverb Lore. 


The weaker goes to the pot. (English). 
The weakest gaes to the wa\ (Scotch). 

274 Proverbs Annotated 


A white wall is the fool's writing paper — ^he writes his 
name there. (English, French, Italian). 

Every weak person who contends with a stranger falls so 
as not to rise again. (Persian). 

In the fray the weak are strong. (Italiafl). 

The cudgel of the powerful must be obeyed. (Hindustani). 

The fallen are cudgelled repeatedly. (Behar). 

The ill clad are put against the wind. (French). 

The water overflows a low wall— i.e. Misforttme over- 
comes the weak. (Persian). 

The weakest always is wrong. (Italian). 

The weakest has the worse. (English). 

The weakest must hold the candle. (French). 

To be weak is to be miserable. (English). 

Where the dam is lowest the water first runs over. 

Where the dyke is lowest men go over. (English). 

Where the hedge is lowest men may soonest over. 

Whether the melon falls upon the knife or the knife on the 
melon the melon is the sxifferer. (Hindustani). 



It is said that Charles Dickens remarked when 
in conversation with a pompous young man who 
denounced the sins and foUies of the human 
race, "What a lucky thing it is that you and I 
do not belong to it." 

People often condemn others for the sins in 
which they themselves indulge. The faults that 
seem small in one's own life appear large in the 
lives of a neighbor, The critic, who is also a re- 
former, is of great use in the world but mere fault- 
finders benefit no one. To be just one must 
not only know the truth but the whole truth. 
There are times when it is necessary to condemn 
the course of others but condemnation should 
be devoid of bitterness and tempered with com- 

The proverb probably came originally from 
Spain, where there are many folk sayings of 
similar import. "He that has a roof of glass 
should not throw stones at his neighbors" is a 
familiar phrase among the people of the penin- 

It is believed by many people that the proverb 

276 Proverbs Annotated 

was first used by James I (VI of Scotland) but as 
Chaucer, who died a century and a half before the 
union of the two crowns was effected, quoted the 
saying, James I, could not have been its author. 
Chaucer quoted it thus: "Frothy (therefore) 
who that hath an heed (head) of verre (glass). 
Fro cast of stones war him in the werre (let him 

The following story is frequently given in proof 
that James I was its author: When the govern- 
ments of England and Scotland were united a 
large number of Scotchmen came to London. 
Their presence was offensive to many English- 
men and a movement was started to annoy them. 
The leader of the movement was the Duke of 
Buckingham who lived in a house that had many 
windows and that was known as the "glass 
house." One of the ways by which the malcon- 
tents sought to harass the newcomers was by 
going about after dark and breaking the windows 
of their houses. This so enraged the Scotchmen 
that they retaliated by visiting Buckingham's 
mansion in St. Martin's Fields and, under cover 
of the night, shattered all the glass that 
could be reached. The Duke went at once 
to the King and complained of the treatment 
he had received; whereupon the sovereign said 
to the court favorite, "Steenie, Steenie, those 
who live in glass houses should be carefu' how 
they fling stanes." 

They That Live m Glass Houses 277 

If there is any truth in the story James I only 
quoted a well-known saying. 

"Whoso casteth a stone on high casteth it on 
his own head; and a deceitful stroke shall make 
wounds. Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein; 
and he that setteth a trap shall be taken therein. 
He that worketh mischief, it shall fall upon him, 
and he shall not know whence it cometh." — 


"How is it that no man tries to search into 
himself, but each fixes his eyes on the wallet of 
the one who goes before him ? " — Plautus b.c. 
254?-! 84. Referring to -^sop's fable of two 
bags that Jupiter is said to have hung on men, 
the one in front being filled with the faults of 
the wearer's neighbor and the one on the back 
with the wearer's vices. 

"He who accuses another of wrong should 
look well into his own conduct." — Plautus. 

"Frothy, who that hath an heed of verre 
Fro cast of stones war him in the werre. " 
Geoffrey Chaucer, a.d. 1340-1400, Troilus & Cressida. 

"Then Eld took heart and was hastily shriven 
And waved away Wanhope and fought with Life, 
And Life fled away to Physic for help. 
Besought him succour and used his salves, 
Gave gold, good measure that gladdened his heart. 
The doctors gave him a glass house to live in. 
Life believed that leechcraft should stay the steps of Eld 
And with drink and drugs drive away Death." 
William Langland, a.d. i 330-1 400, Piers Plowman. 

278 Proverbs Annotated 

"Think but how vile a spectacle it were, 
To view thy present trespass in another. 
Men's faults do seldom to themselves appear; 
Their own transgressons partially they smother; 
This guilt would seem death-worthy in thy brother 
O, how are they wrapp'd in with infamies, 
That from their own misdeeds askance their eyes. " 

Shakespeare, A.D. 1564-1616, The Rape of Lucrece. 

"There's some wi' big scars on their face, 
Point out a prin scart on a f rien' ; 
And some, black as sweeps wi' disgrace, 
Cry out, the whole world's imclean." 

James Hogg, a.d. 1770-1835. 

variant proverbs 

He that has a roof of glass should not throw stones at his 

neighbor. (Spanish, Danish, Italian, German, 

He that hath a body made of glass must not throw stones 

at another. (English). 
He who lives in a house of glass should not throw stones at 

people. (Hebrew, Arabic). 
If you have a head of glass do not throw stones at me. 

Let him that hath a glass skull not take to throwing stones. 

Let him that hath glass panes not throw stones at his 

neighbor's house. (Spanish). 
Let him that hath glass tiles not throw stones at his neigh- 
bor's house. (Spanish). 
When your house is of glass do not throw stones at your 

neighbor's house. (Kurdish). 
Who hath glass windows of his own must take heed how he 

throws stones at his house. (English). 

They That Live in Glass Houses 279 


Barefoot men should not walk on thorns. (English). 
Don't laugh at me, you will catch the contagion. 

This is an admonition to those that laugh at the 
misfortunes of others. (Assamese). 
Don't use ridicule, some of it is sure to fall on your own 

head and feet. (Bannu). 
Evil that Cometh out of thy mouth fleeth into thy bosom. 

He has need 0' a clean pow that ca's his neighbor nitty 

now. (Scotch). 
He that courts injury will obtain it. (Danish). 
He that flings dirt at another dirtieth himself most. 

He that goes barefoot must not plant thorns. (English). 
He that hath a head of wax must not walk in the sun. 

He that hath horns in his bosom, let him not put them on 

his head. (English). 
He that hurts another hurts himself. (English). 
He that mischief hatcheth, mischief catcheth. (English). 
He that strikes with his tongue must ward with his head. 

He who threateneth hunteth after revenge. (English). 
He who throws a stone above himself may have it fall on 

his own head. (German). 
If dogs (busybodies) go about they must expect the stick. 

Look out as you move for there are many uneven places 

within your own body and you might slip into one of 

them. (Assamese). 
Oil your own wheel first. (Bengalese). 
O Mother-in-law should you accuse me and bring a re- 
proach on yourself in return. (Telugu) . 
One stone is enough to destroy a house which is made of 

glass. (Persian). 

28o Proverbs Annotated 

Spit a-de sky, he say fall a-you face. (British Guiana). 
Spit at the sun and the spittle will fall on your own face. 

Sweep away the snow from thine own door and heed not 

the frost upon the neighbor's tiles. (Chinese). 
The threatener sometimes gets a drubbing. (French). 
They that do what they should not, should hear what they 

would not. (English). 
They wha will break rude jists maun put up wi' rude 

answers. (Scotch). 
They who play with edged tools must expect to be cut. 

Threats are arms for the threatened. (Italian). 
What you put into the pot you will take out in the ladle. 

Who has a head of wax must not come near the fire. 



To take material of any kind to a place where 
it abounds, or to give to another that of which he 
has plenty. 

The origin of the saying is unknown. The form 
is evidently English and has been in use by the 
English people since the sixteenth century but the 
thought has been expressed in some adage every- 
where for untold ages. The old Rabbis declared 
that when Moses first demanded that the chil- 
dren of Israel should be delivered from Egyptian 
bondage he wrought miracles in attestation of his 
right to prompt obedience as a messenger of 
Jehovah, but Pharoah ridiculed him and said 
that miracles proved nothing in Egypt as the 
magicians there were masters of the art. Then 
he asked, * ' Art thou bringing straw to Eprayne ? " 
and calling some children from school bade them 
perform some wonders in magic before Moses, 
which they did. Pharoah 's wife, the Rabbis 
tell us, also wrought miracles. Having thus 
disproved Moses' claim as he supposed, Pharoah 
asked Moses whether any man could be consid- 
ered wise who "carried muria to Spain, or fish 
to Acco" ; whereupon Moses answered by repeat- 

282 Proverbs Annotated 

ing proverb for proverb saying, "Where there 
is a market for greenstuff, there I take my 

Aristophanes, the comic poet of Greece, who 
lived over three hundred years before Christ, 
spoke of "Carrying owls to Athens" where the 
image of the bird of night was stamped on the 
coins and where it was held sacred. 

It was common during the middle ages to 
speak of any superfluous act or bestowment as 
"carrying indulgences to Rome." 

One of the strangest forms that the proverb 
has ever taken is that used by the natives of 
Africa speaking the Oji language. Knowing that 
mushroom gatherers are in the habit of looking 
for a supply of the fungus on anthills where it is 
frequently found growing, they laugh at any 
one who gathered mushrooms elsewhere and 
foolishly put them on such hills for safe- 
keeping. They therefore speak of men who 
seek a market for their goods in a place 
where similar goods abound, or who give to 
others that of which the recipient has an abun- 
dance: " Nobody gathering mushrooms deposits 
them on an anthill." 

Perhaps the most humorous form that the 
proverb takes is that which has been adopted by 
the French who use the expression — "To jump 
into the water for fear of rain," thus presenting 
to the mind a picture of a man who fear- 
ing that he will be overtaken by an approach- 

To Carry Coals to Newcastle 283 

ing storm flees to a river or lake and leaps 
therein so as to be under cover when the rain 
begins to fall. 

Disraeli tells us in his Curiosities of Literature 
that the saying was borrowed by the English 
and applied to themselves. "It may be found," 
he declares, "among the Persians: In the 'Bus- 
tan* of Sadi we have Infers piper in Hindostan — 
*To carry pepper to Hindostan.' Among the 
Hebrews, *To carry oil to the city of olives'; a 
similar proverb occurs in Greek." 

Scripture References : Gen. 33:8,9; Exod. 
36:5-7; Matt. 13: 12; 25:29; Mark 4: 25; Luke 
6:38; 8: 18; 19: 26. 

"He betook himself to the town of Ephraim, 
twenty miles north of Jerusalem and five north- 
east of Bethel, on the margin of the wilderness of 
Judea. Ephraim is unknown to fame. It was 
situated in a wheat growing district, and the 
Jews had a proverb, 'Carry straw to Ephraim," 
much Hke our 'Carry coals to Newcastle." — 
David Smith, a.d. 1866, In the Days of His 

"Proverb literature testifies to a universal 
abundance of that class of gifts which pro- 
voke a ' thank you for nothing.' ' Coals to New- 
castle' is our national expression but for such 
superfluous presents the Greeks had many a 
mocking adage." — London Quarterly Review, 
July, 1868. 

284 Proverbs Annotated 


A farthing to the millions of CrcEsus. (Greek). 
Carrying saut to Dysart and puddings to Tranent. 

Sometimes this saying is used only in part and 
treated as two proverbs. (Scotch). 
Carry vegetables to the town of vegetables. (Hebrew). 
Like selling needles in the blacksmith's street. (Telugu). 
Like selling pots in Potter's Street. (Telugu). 
Putting salt into the sea. (Gaelic). 
Selling needles at the iron mimgers. (Bengali). 
Sending salt to the salt pit. (Welsh). 
That were sending butter to a dairyman's house. (Gaelic). 
That were sending wood to Lochaber. (Gaelic). 
To add a farthing to the riches of Croesus. (Latin). 
To act cupbearer to the frogs. (Greek). 
To carry apples to Alcinous. (Greek). 
To carry blades to Damascus. (Asiatic). 
To carry box to Cytorus. (Greek). 
To carry brine to Apamaea and fish to Acco. (Hebrew). 
To carry cockles to St. Michael. (French). 
To carry ctunin seed to Kirmin. (Persian). 
To carry fish to the Hellespont. (Greek). 
To carry indvdgences to Rome. (English). 
To carry leaves to the woods. (French). 
To carry muria to Spain or fish to Acco. (Ancient Hebrew) . 
To carry oil to the city of olives— sometimes quoted " To 

carry oil to Olivet." (Hebrew, Greek). 
To carry owls to Athens. (Greek). 
To carry peppers to Hindustan. (Persian). 
To carry straw to Ephraim. 

Ephraim being the wheat growing district of 

Palestine. (Ancient Hebrew). 
To carry the clod to the plowed field. (Greek) . 
To carry water to the river. (French). 

To Carry Coals to Newcastle 285 

To carry wood to the forests. (Latin). 

To carry wood to the mountain. (Spanish). 

To cart water to the Thames. (English). 

To offer honey to one who owns beehives. (Spanish, 

Portuguese, Italian). 
To pour water into the Severn. (Welsh). 
To send enchantments to Egypt. (Hebrew). 
To send fir to Norway. (Dutch, Danish). 
To send water to the sea. (French, Portuguese, German, 

Dutch, Spanish, Osmanli). 
To sell shells to those who come from St. Michel. 

To show the path to one who knows it. (Welsh). 
To throw brine into the sea. (Welsh). 
To throw water into the river. (Persian). 


Cress is not sold to the cress seller, nor tarragon to hun 
who vends tarragon. (Osmanli). 

Do not sell sun in July. (Italian). 

It is foolish to show glow worms by candle light. (Italian) . 

Nobody gathering mushrooms deposits them on an ant- 
hill. (Oji— Africa). 

Of what use is a torch at midday? (Hebrew). 

Sending ducks to fetch the geese from the water. (Welsh) . 

The beggar stands at the beggar's door. (Panjabi). 

The healthy seeking a doctor. (Welsh) . 

The lamb teaching the sheep to graze. (Welsh). 

The light of a lamp amid the glare of a torch. (Assamese). 

To carry a lantern in midday. (Hebrew). 

To grease a lump of lard. (Welsh). 

To jump into the water for fear of rain. (French). <.^ - 

To light a lamp amid the glare of a torch. (Assamese). 

To sell honey to buy sweet things. (Welsh). 

To sell the sow and buy bacon. (Welsh). 

To show the sim with a torch. (French). 

286 Proverbs Annoliated 

To sink a well by the riverside. (German). 

When it rains everybody brings drink to the hens. (Ar- 

Where there is a market for greenstuff, there I take my 
greenstuff. (Ancient Hebrew). 


To take from one and give to another. 

The proverb is very old. Its origin is unknown. 
Many believe that it was not used eariier than 
1560. On Dec. 17, 1550, the abbey church of St. 
Peter's, Westminster, was made a cathedral. 
Ten years later the Westminster lands were so 
wasted that they became insufficient to support 
the cathedral and were therefore in part sold and 
the money used to repair St. Paul's Cathedral, 
London. It has been thought that the proverb 
came into use at that time. But Walter W. 
Skeat says truly that such a derivation of the 
proverb is a mere guess and quoted the phrase as 
found in Lanfranc's Science of Cirurgie written 
about the year 1400 where the following expres- 
sion is found: "For sum medicyne is for Peter 
that is not good for Poule, for diuersite of com- 
plexioun." The two names Peter and Paul being 
used not with reference to the apostles but in a 
general sense and because of the alliteration. He 
further reminds us that Heywood in 1562 quoted 
the proverb — "Rob Peter to pay Paul," which 
is the true form with no application to the West- 
minster incident. It is not at all improbable 

288 Proverbs Annotated 

that when the repairs were made in St. Paul's 
Cathedral the proverb, being well known, was 
quoted in referring to the work. 

It may have been that the English form — "To 
rob St. Peter to pay St. Paul" — was an adapta- 
tion of the French saying — "To strip St. Peter 
to clothe St. Paul" — which probably was first 
used as a robing proverb and referred to the in- 
discriminate use of vestments on St. Peter's and 
St. Paul's days. 

*' He always looked a given horse in the mouth, 
leaped from the cock to the ass and put one ripe 
between two green. By robbing Peter he paid 
Paul; he kept the moon from the wolves and 
hoped to catch larks if ever the heavens should 
fall." — FRANgois Rabelais, a.d. 1490?-! 553. 

"Like a pickpurse pilgrim ye pry and ye prowl 
At rovers, to rob Peter and pay Poule 
Iwys, I know, or any more be told, 
That draf is your errand, but drink ye wolde." 

John Heywood, a.d. 1497- 1580. 

"Rob Peter to pay Paul: Thou sayest I do, 
But thou robbest and p)oulst Peter and Paul too." 

John Heywood. 

"I dwell from the city in suburbs at rowles; 
I pray to St. Peter to bring me near Powles. 
Alas, thou pray'st all in vain, poor silly fool — 
Peter will set no hand to bring thee to Poule." 

John Heywood. 

To Rob Peter to Pay Paul 289 


Give not Peter so much to leave St. Paul nothing. (English). 

He robs Peter to pay Paul. (Hindustani). 

He takes from St. Peter and gives to St. Paul. (English). 

Plimder Peter and pay Paul. (Irish-Ulster). 

To strip St. Peter to clothe St. Paul. (French). 

To take from St. Peter and give to St. Paul. (French). 


From whom did you gain? From my brother — that is no 

gain. (Pashto). 
He cut from the skirt and added to the shoulder. (Persian). 
He has cut from the beard and joined (it) to his moustache. 

He plucked from his beard and added to his moustache. 

He plucked from the beard and added to the whiskers. 

He put Uhmud's cap upon Muhmood's head. (Persian) . 
He rieves the kirk to theek the choir. (Scotch). 
Itis no use starving the horse to fatten the mule. (Chinese). 
Peter in, Paul out. (Scotch). 

Praise Peter but don't find fault with Paul. (English). 
Starving Mike Malcolm to fatten big Murdock. (Gaelic). 
The thatch of the kiln on the mill. (Gaelic) . 
They took it off from his beard and put it into the mous- 
tache. (Arabian). 
Tie the kihi to thatch the mill. (Scotch) . 
To dig toward the East in order to fill up a hole towards the 

West is giving oneself useless trouble. (Chinese). 
To kill crows and throw them to kites. (Telugu). 
To make one hole to fill up another. (Spanish). 
To steal oil from one temple in order to light a lamp in 

another. (Marathi). 
To strip one altar to cover another. (Italian). 
Who praiseth St. Peter doth not blame St. Paul. (English). 

WHAT can't be cured MUST BE ENDURED 

This truism was in common use before the 
Christian era. Plautus said that "if you culti- 
vate a cheerful disposition in misfortune you will 
reap the advantages of it" and Publius Syrus 
declared that one "must endure that which can- 
not be altered." But the saying is not generally 
used merely to state a fact, but rather to encour- 
age those who despond because of trouble or re- 
bel against adverse conditions. It is therefore a 
proverb of inspiration for the faint-hearted. The 
Scriptures carry the thought further and bid us 
profit by our adversities. "We triumph even 
in our troubles," wrote the Apostle Paul "know- 
ing that trouble produces endurance, endurance 
produces character and character produces 
hope — and hope which never disappoints us, 
since God's love floods our hearts through the 
Holy Spirit which has been given to us." — 
Romans 5 : 3-5, Moffat's Translation. 

An old and wise saw advises : 

"If there is a remedy find it 
If there is none ne'er mind it." 

"Judging by the stupendous grandeur of the 

What Can't Be Cured Must Be Endured 291 

revelation — therefore lest I should be over elated 
there has been sent to me like the agony of im- 
palement Satan's angel dealing blow after blow 
lest I should be over elated. As for this, three 
times have I besought the Lord to rid me of him; 
but his reply has been *My grace suffices for 
you, for power matures in weakness. ' Most 
gladly therefore will I boast of my infirmities in 
the bearing of insults, in distress, in persecutions, 
in grievous difficulties — for Christ's sake; for 
when I am weak then I am strong." — II Cor- 
inthians 12:7-10, Weymouth's Translation. 

"To bear troubles is a light thing; to endure 
them to the end is a heavy thing." — Seneca, 
B.C. 4?-A.D. 65. 

"Whatever you suffer deservedly should be 
borne patiently ; the punishment which comes to 
one undeserving of it comes as a matter of be- 
wailing." — Ovid, b.c. 43-A.D. 17. 

"Why courage then! what cannot be avoided 
'Twere childish weakness to lament or fear." 
William Shakespeare, A.D. 1564-1616, Henry VI.,PLIIL 

"Alas! I show'd too much 
The rashness of a woman; he is touch'd 
To the noble heart. What's gone and what's past help 
Should be past grief; I beseech you, rather 
Let me be punish'd, that have minded you 
Of what you should forget." 

William Shakespeare, A Winter's Tale. 

"Follow after that which He calls you unto; 

292 Proverbs Annotated 

and you will find light arising unto you in the 
midst of darkness. Has he a cup of affliction in 
one hand ? — Lift up your eyes and you will see a 
cup of consolation in the other. And if all stars 
withdraw their light whilst you are in the way of 
God, assure yourself that the sun is ready to 
rise." — John Owen, a.d. i 616-1683. 

" God, perhaps, is pleased to visit us with some 
heavy affliction, and shall we now, out of a due 
reverence of his all governing wisdom patiently 
endure it ? Or out of a blind presumption of our 
own endeavor by some sinister way or other to 
rid ourselves from it?" — Robert South, a.d. 

"This is a consolatory proverb applicable to 
persons under the pressure of some inevitable 
calamity; and advises to make a virtue of neces- 
sity, and not aggravate but alleviate the burden 
by patient bearing." — Nathan Bailey, a.d. 
1 72 1, Diverse Proverbs. 

'* Nothing but mirth can conquer fortune's spite; 
No sky is heavy if the heart be light: 
Patience is sorrow's salve; what can't be cured, 
So Donald right areads, must be endured." 
Charles Churchill, a.d. i 731-1764, The Prophecy 

oj Famine. 


Gnaw the bone which is fallen to thy lot. (English). 

If I live I can exist on Balusukura. (Telugu). 

If it can be nae better it's weel it's nae waur. (Scotch). 

What Can*t Be Cured Must Be Endured 293 

Nothing is grievous which necessity enjoins. (Latin). 

Of what use is it to call on one who is drowned. (Persian) . 

There is no misfortune out of which some good fortune 
may not be got. (Welsh). 

There is nothing for it now but resignation — generally used 
by the Persians after the death of kindred or friends. 

Whatever comes is endured. (Osmanli). 

What is done can't be undone. (Danish). 

What was hard to bear is sweet to remember. (Portu- 

Where remedies are needed sighing avails nothing. 


What you can't have, abuse. (Italian). 


Suit your behavior or appearance to the coun- 
try in which you dwell. 

Adapt yourself to circumstances. 

Monica and her son, Aurelius Augustus, better 
known as Saint Augustine, having learned that 
Saturday was observed as a fast day in Rome, 
when it was not so observed in Milan, went to 
St. Ambrose for advice as to the proper course to 
pursue when visiting the Imperial City. St. 
Ambrose thinking it wise to conform to the prac- 
tices of others in matters non-essential answered, 
"When I am here (in Milan) I do not fast on 
Saturday, when in Rome I do fast on Saturday." 
This reply of St. Ambrose is said to have given 
rise to the saying — "When in Rome do as the 
Romans do." 

Pandit Ganga Datt Upreti, who resided for 
many years in the secluded district of Kumaun 
and Garhwalin India, gives the following amusing 
stories current among the people, that illustrate 
this proverb: 

"A man once arrived in a foreign country to 
visit a friend. He inquired for the road leading to 
his friend's house from a boy standing by, telling 

When In Rome Do As Romans Do 295 

him that on arrival at his host's house he would 
give him plenty of sweetmeats. The boy led him 
there. The man before entering his friend's 
house gave him one rupee to buy sweetmeats. 
The boy did not accept it, saying that it was not 
enough. The man, for fear of disgrace, offered 
him five rupees but still the boy refused and, 
becoming very obstinate, began to quarrel with 
him. He was at a loss what to do. At last the 
noise of the quarrel reached his friend who came 
out and inquired into the whole matter and then 
told him the proverb — * One ought to adopt the 
guise of the country in which he lives' — and gave 
him advice adapted to the occasion. The man 
according to his friend's advice bought some 
sweetmeats for one pice, and then divided them 
into two portions — i.e. one greater and the other 
smaller. Putting a portion in each hand he told 
the boy to take whichever he pleased. The boy 
took the greater portion with satisfaction and 
then went away." 

"Once a man happened to arrive in a village 
which was peopled only with noseless men (who 
had had their noses cut off for some crime). 
No sooner had he arrived than he was ironically 
addressed by the nickname 'Nacku,' or the 
man having a nose. As the stranger was obliged 
to stay there for his livelihood he was contemptu- 
ously treated and tormented by the villagers 
until he also had his nose cut off." 

The Hindoos are very loth to give up the ways 

296 Proverbs Annotated 

of their ancestors particularly in religious matters 
and their proverbs reflect that trait of character. 
The Pashto proverbs — "Do not go on the road 
which neither your father nor your mother goes," 
"Forsake your village, but not its ancient 
usages," and "Though the head should go a 
habit goes not " — all indicate this unwillingness to 
change. There is a proverbial complaint that is 
addressed to men about to remove their resi- 
dence to another district or country that further 
shows this characteristic. One Hindoo will say 
to his departing friend in a tone of regret — 
"Wherever you live you will observe their cus- 
toms," as though the influence of the new home 
might cause him to depart from the ways of his 
ancestors, and a father addressing a wayward 
son will conclude his remarks with the saying — 
"You have now followed a novelty which neither 
your father nor your grandfather knew." While 
the people of India are unwilling to give up the 
ways of their ancestors they are often prone to 
change when thrown among foreigners. Mr. 
S. S. Thorburn of the Indian Civil Service, says 
that a Mohammedan in the Bennu district seldom 
misses praying five times a day and always in as 
public manner as he can, but once let him separ- 
ate himself from his own people, where no tale- 
bearing eyes are upon him, he'll forget his beads 
and his genuflexions. 

The European Turks have a quaint way of 
advising men regarding a departure from accus- 

When In Rome Do As Romans Do 297 

tomed practices. They say one to another — * ' Go 
to your father and make salutation to him" — 
that is, do as you please about the matter. 

"Their host bewailed himself exceedingly that 
he could offer him no wine : * Had he but known 
four and twenty hours before he would have had 
some, had it been within the circle of forty miles 
round him. But no gentleman could do more to 
show his sense of the honor of a visit from an- 
other, than to offer him the best cheer his house 
offered.' When there are no bushes there can be 
no nuts and the way of those you live with is 
that you must follow." — Walter Scott, a. d. 
1771-1832, Waverley. 

"To 'do at Rome as they do at Rome' is a 
sage maxim of antiquity which teaches us that in 
whatever spot of the globe we may chance to be, 
it is our duty kindly to accommodate ourselves 
to the prevailing custom." — John W. Cunning- 
ham, A.D. 1 780-1 861, Sancho. 

"They are in a double fault, 'that fashion 
themselves to this world,' which Paul forbids, and 
like Mercury, the planet, are good with good, bad 
with bad. When they are at Rome they do there 
as they see done, Puritans with Puritans, Papists 
with Papists; tmntum horarum homines, formal- 
ists, ambidexters, lukewarm Laodiceans. All 
their study is to please, and their god is their 
commodity; their labor to satisfy their lusts, and 
their endeavors to their own ends. Whatever 
they pretend or in public seem to do 'withe the 

298 Proverbs Annotated 

fool in their hearts, they say there is no God.' " — 
Robert Burton, a.d. i 759-1 796, Anatomy of 


At Rome do as Rome does. (French). 
He that has Rome must keep Rome up. (Gaelic). 
When you are in Rome do as you see. (Spanish). 
You may not sit in Rome and strive with the Pope. 


At Benares he was a Benares-man, at Mathura he was a 


This proverb is applied to time servers. (Marathi) . 
Do as most men do and men will speak well of thee. 

Do as others do and few will mock you. (Danish). 
Go out and see how the people act. (Ancient Hebrew). 
Go with many, eat with many. (Pashto). 
Hast gone into the city conform to its laws. (Ancient 

I came down stairs in the dark and washed my face in a 

water pot filled with water. This must be done in the 

house — i.e. I adapted myself to the place in which I 

lived. (Kashmiri). 
If there is darkness in the place to which you have gone, 

do you also close your eyes. (Osmanli). 
If you go among other people, be like them. (Marathi). 
In the place of roses do you be a rose, and where there are 

thorns do you be a thorn. (Persian). 
Never wear a brown hat in Friesland. (Dutch). 
One ought to adopt the guise of the country in which he 

lives. (Kumaun, Garhwal). 

When In Rome Do As Romans Do 299 

One ought to look at the country of one eyed men with only 

one eye. (Kumaun, Garhwal). 
Recite according to the book. (Chinese). 
Suit your appearance to the country. (Behar). 
The law of the state is law. — i.e. The law of a state is 

binding on a foreigner therein as well as a native, 

even though he be a Jew. (Ancient Hebrew). 
The manner of the folk one lives among will be followed. 

The reply of a Turkish question should be in Turkish. 

The way of those you live with is that you must follow. 

Thy neighbor is thy teacher. (Arabian). 
When you are in town if you observe that people wear the 

hat on one side, wear yours likewise. (Armenian). 
Wherever you are do as you see done. (Spanish). 
Wood in the town cooks the pot in the town. (Ibo-Ni- 



when the cat is away the mice will 
(or may) play 

This proverb is found in all lands. 

When the restraints of law are withheld or 
relaxed the people yield to evil propensities and 
commit crime. 

When children are not under supervision and 
control they say and do that which they ought not. 

When mechanics are without oversight they 
grow careless and negligent in work — "The mas- 
ter's eye will do more work than both his hands." 

When there is no steersman at the helm the 
boat will drift. 

Liberty without restraint leads to license. 

The inhabitants of Western India declare that 
when the gods become false those who study the 
Vedas grow wicked. A similar belief is held by 
the Marathi people who say — "God is not in the 
shrine and the censer dances about." 

"For once the eagle England being in prey. 
To her unguarded nest the weasel Scot 
Comes sneaking and so sucks her princely eggs, 
Playing the mouse in absence of the cat, 
To tear and havoc more than she can eat." 
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, A.D. 1564-1616, King Henry V. 

When the Cat Is Away 301 


The cat is absent and the mice dance. (Modem Greek) . 
When the cat is gone the mice dance. (Belgian). 
When the cat is away the mice have room to play. (Welsh) . 
When the cat is not in the house the rats (or mice) dance. 

When the cat is not the mice are awake. (French). 
When the cat's away it is jubilee with the mice. (Dutch). 
When the cat's away the mice give a ball. (Martinique 

When the cat shall leave home the mice shall have leave 

to dance. (Irish-Famey). 
When the cats leave town (or home) the mice dance. 

When the cat sleeps the mice play. (Dutch). 
When there is no cat mice dance. (Indian-Kumaun, 



A blate cat makes a proud mouse. (Scotch). 

A blind cat catches only a dead rat. (Chinese) . 

God is not in the shrine and the censer dances about. 

If you have money to throw away set on workmen and 
don't stand by. (Italian). 

Lamps out, the turban vanishes — ^when the ruler dies or is 
deposed the people commit crime. (Hindustani). 

The eye of the master fattens the steed. (English). 

The master's eye is worth both his hands. (English). 

The master's eye maketh the horse fat. (English). 

The master's eye puts mate on the horse's banes. (Irish- 

The mewing of the cat has silenced the mice. (Modem 

There is a thick mist so sing as you please. (Hindustani). 

Under misrule they play the fool. (Hindustani). 

302 Proverbs Annotated 

Well knows the mouse that the cat's out of the house. 

Were the cat at home it were worse for you. (Welsh, 

What wots the mouse, the cat's out of the house. (Scotch). 
When the cat dies the mice rejoice. (Ashanti, Oji-West 

When the cat is blind the rat becomes bold. (Marathi). 
When the cat is safe in the forest the rat says — "She's my 

wife." (Hindustani). 
When the king is away the queen is free to act as she likes. 


91, 117,274,287 


(See "A man is known by the company he 
keeps" and "Birds of a feather flock together.") 

The origin of this proverb is unknown. It 
may have come from the ancient superstition 
that people were sometimes temporarily con- 
verted into wolves. In olden times the dread of 
wolves was so great, particularly among the 
pastoral people, that the strange and terrible 
hallucination known as lycanthropy, or wolf 
madness, prevailed in many lands and among all 
classes. It spread among the people like an epi- 
demic. The ignorant and educated alike declared 
that human beings could, by the aid of super- 
natural agencies, be changed into wolves and go 
about as wild beasts, roaming the forests, walk- 
ing on their hands and feet, howling, tearing 
open graves, molesting unarmed travelers, steal- 
ing and eating children, etc. The dread of such a 
transformation was so great that whole communi- 
ties lived in constant fear lest they should suffer 
injury from the assaults of wolfmen. Some 
people, out of vengeance for fancied injuries, ac- 
cused their neighbors of werwolfery and caused 

304 Proverbs Annotated 

them to be brought before the courts, and tried; 
not infrequently the hapless victims of such an 
accusation were adjudged guilty and condemned 
to severe punishment. Strange as it seems, the 
delusion took such a strong hold on the people 
that many declared themselves to be guilty and 
gave circumstantial evidence of their transforma- 

Many wild and impossible stories of wolf mad- 
ness were repeated in mediaeval times but all of 
them find an explanation in the heated imagina- 
tion of the people or in the acts of men who were 
mentally unbalanced. 

"In the fifteenth century a council of theologi- 
ans, convoked by the Emperor Sigismund, gravely 
decided that the loup-garow was a reality." — 
E. CoBHAM Brewer, a.d. 1810-1897. 

"If thou wishes to get rid of any evil propensi- 
ties, thou must keep far from evil companions." 
— Seneca, b.c. 4-A.D. 65. 

"Bad company is like a nail driven into a post, 
which after the first or second blow, may be 
drawn out with little difficulty; but being once 
driven up to the head, the pinchers cannot take 
hold to draw it out, but which can only be done 
by the destruction of the wood." — St. Augus- 
tine, A.D. 354-430. 

"A parent or guardian should always reflect 
upon the consequences of placing a child or a 
ward here or there. Some company is as infec- 

Who Keeps Company with a Wolf 305 

tious and more mischievous than the plague; 
and no account can be given for the odd choice 
that some people make in the disposition of a son 
who are extremely solicitous about the good 
breeding of a dog. We should therefore recom- 
mend good company to youth by our own ex- 
ample, and putting them into it, that they may 
early taste the satisfaction of virtuous society 
and resist the insinuating arts of the vicious." — 
Samuel Palmer, a.d. 17 10. 

"Frequent intercourse and intimate connection 
between two persons make them so alike that not 
only their dispositions are moulded like each 
other, but their very faces and tones of voice 
contract a similarity. ' ' — Johann C. Lavater, a.d. 

" No company is far preferable to bad because 
we are more apt to catch the vices of others than 
virtues as disease is far more contagious than 
health." — Charles C. Colton, a.d. 1780-1852. 

Mr. John Foster in his Life of Dickens has 
a curious story of "a distinguished writer," their 
common friend, and "a man of many sterling 
fine qualities ; but with a habit of occasional free 
indulgence in coarseness of speech," who once 
met at dinner at Lausanne "a stately English 
baronet" and his "two milksop sons " who were 
being educated into manhood with exceptional 
purity and innocence; at which crisis of their 
career "our ogre friend" encountered these 
lambs and, "as if possessed by a devil, launched 

3o6 Proverbs Annotated 

out into such frightful and appalHng impropriety 
— ranging over every kind of forbidden topic and 
every species of forbidden word, and every sort 
of scandalous anecdote — that years of education 
in Newgate," affirms the author of Oliver Twist, 
"would have been as nothing compared with 
their experience of that one afternoon. After 
turning paler and paler, and more and more 
stony, the baronet, with a half suppressed cry, 
rose and fled." The best meaning, really the 
worst, of the story is, that the sons, intent on the 
ogre, remained behind instead of following their 
father, and are supposed to have been ruined 
from that hour. — Francis Jacox, a.d. 1874. 

*'It is important to prevent children in particu- 
lar from associating with those who have per- 
sonal defects lest they should adopt them. It is 
still more necessary to guard them against the 
infection of depraved morals which are more 
readily imbibed, take deeper root and are with 
greater difficulty removed than those affecting 
only the person." — John Brand, a.d. i 744-1 806. 


A calf that goes with a pig will eat excrement. (Tamil). 
A fowl brotight up with a pig will eat dirt. (Tamil). 
Amongst the honorable a man becomes honorable; 

amongst the base, base. (Bannu). 
Grapes derive their color from grapes. (Persian). 
He who walks with the virtuous is one of them. (English) . 
If you sit down with a lame man you will learn to halt. 

(Modem Greek). 

Who Keeps Company with a Wolf 307 

If you sit with one who squints before evening you will 
become cat-eyed. (Modem Greek). 

Keep company with good men and good men you'll imi- 
tate. (Chinese). 

Keep company with good men and good men you'll learn 
to be. (Chinese). 

Live with him who prays and thou prayest; live with the 
singer and thou singest. (Arabian). 

Live with one who plays and thou playest. (Arabian). 

Live with the singer and thou singest. (Arabian). 

The manners of the flock one lives among will be followed. 

The servant of a king is like a king. (Hebrew). 

Who follows a thief learns to steal. (Ibo- Nigerian). 

Who lives with a cripple learns to limp. (English, Dutch, 

With the good we become good. (Dutch). 


A bad friend is like a smith, who if he does not btirn you 
with fire will injure you with smoke. (Arabian). 

A collector of mtunmies will be one. (Japanese). 

A crow learned to walk like a cuckoo and forgot his own 
walk. (Kashmiri). 

A crow tried to acquire the strut of the partridge and forgot 
even its own — On the Afghan frontier a red-legged 
partridge is regarded as very graceful while the crow 
is thought to be a t3rpe of awkwardness. (Pashto). 

A little buttermilk, the size of a pearl, to a whole pail full of 
milk. (Telugu). 

A monkey sees its fellow jump and jumps too. (Nigerian). 

A single scrap of spoiled meat taints the whole meat. 

A thief knows a thief and a wolf knows a wolf. (English) . 

A thief knows a thief's ways. (Hindustani). 

Approach the perfumer and thou wilt be perfumed. 

3o8 Proverbs Annotated 

A wise man associating with the vicious becomes an idiot; 

a dog traveling with good men becomes a rational 

being. (Arabian). 
Bad companions quickly corrupt the good. (German). 
Bad company is friendship with a snake fencing with a 

sword. (Telugu). 
Blackness leaves the coal when the fire enters — that is, the 

evil becomes good by good association. (Bengalese). 
Carry wood behind the owner of property — i.e. Follow the 

prosperous and you will prosper. (Hebrew). 
Do not approach the black, there will be black contagion. 

Evil companionships corrupt good morals. (Greek). 

This proverb was probably in common use in the 
first century. St. Paul quoted it in I Cor. 15: 33. 
Follow the owl and he will lead you into a ruined place. 

He who goes to Ceylon becomes a demon. (Bengalese), 
He who intimately frequents people for forty days becomes 

one of their munber. (Obsolete Arabian) . 
He who introduces himself between the onion and its peel 

goes forth with the onion smell. (Arabian). 
He who lies down with dogs will get up with fleas. (Eng- 
lish, French, Italian, Spanish, Danish). 
He who mixes himself with draff will be eaten by the swine. 

He who sits among the rubbish must not be smrrised if 

pigs devour him. (Serbian). 
He who speaks good hears good, he who speaks bad 

hears bad. (Osmanli). 
If there be a Balija man as small as a clove of garlic, he will 

ruin the whole village. (Telugu). 
If you wrestle with a collier you will get a blotch. (Eng- 
Near putrid fish you will stink. (Chinese). 

Who Keeps Company with a Wolf 309 

Near putrid fish you will stink, near the epidendrum you 

will be fragrant. (Chinese). 
Near to the perfvuner is fragrance. (Hebrew). 
Near vermillion one gets stained pink ; near ink one gets 

stained black. (Chinese). 
On account of the teacher the pupil has eaten — i.e. Out of 

respect to his teacher the pupil reflects his honors. 

One bad goat will spoil the herd. (Vai-West African). 
One ill weed mars the whole pot of pottage. (English). 
One rotten apple in the basket infects the rest. (Dutch). 
One scabby goat infects the flock. (Persian). 
One scabby sheep's enough to spoil the flock. (English, 

Italian, French). 
Play with dogs and you will get fleas. (Martinique 

Should there be two dry logs and a fresh one together, the 

dry logs set the fresh one on fire. (Hebrew). 
The character of a man depends on whether he has good 

or bad friends. (Japanese). 
The goat and its companions eat palm leaves. (Nigerian). 
The governor took us and the scent came into the hand. — 

i.e. He shook hands with us. (Hebrew). 
The pickpocket is the thief's brother. (Hindustani). 
The qualities of a tree depend on those of the seed from 

which it sprung and those of a man on the company 

he keeps. (Persian). 
The rotten apple spoils its companions. (Spanish). 
Thy neighbor is thy teacher. (Arabian). 
Unless you had touched garlic your fingers would not have 

smelt. (Telugu). 
Vice and virtue arise from our associations. (Bengal ese). 
Whatever goes into a salt mine becomes salt. (Persian). 
What is near vermillion becomes stained red ; what is near 

ink becomes stained black. (Chinese). 
When one plum beholds another it sets forth color. 


310 Proverbs Annotated 

When the crow is your guide he will lead you to the corpses 

of dogs. (Arabian). 
When we strike mud we get smeared over. (Malabar). 
Who lives with a blacksmith will at last go away with 

burnt clothes. (Afghan, Bannu). 
Who play wid de puppy get bit wid de fleas. (British 

Who talks with a smith receives sparks. (Kurdish). 
With whom you are, such one you are. (Dutch, Serbian). 
You only stink your hand by killing a muskrat. (Bengalese) . 


If there is no one but you or me to perform the 
task and I cannot do it by reason of my social 
position, how is the work to be done? 

This old proverb is generally used when urging 
someone to perform a hard or disagreeable task. 
The service must be rendered by one or the other 
and as neither one thinks that he has the ability 
or time what is to be done? It is sometimes 
quoted ironically by one member of a family to 
another in seeking to induce him to perform some 
disagreeable task. Its origin is unknown. 

Among the Behar peasants it is customary to 
speak disparagingly of people who leave any 
special line of work in which they are engaged and 
to which they are adapted that they may enter 
some other calling that has taken their fancy. 
In referring to such people they instinctively 
think of one of their religious customs and ask: 
"Who will search the pots and pans for food if all 
the dogs go on a pilgrimage to Benares?" or in 
other words, who is going to do the work of the 
world if everyone becomes a religious pilgrim? 

"There is and always must be some rough 

312 Proverbs Annotated 

work to be done in the world ; work which, though 
rough, is not therefore in the least ignoble; and 
the schemes, so daintily conceived, of a luxurious 
society, which repose on a tacit assumption that 
nobody shall have to do this work, are touched 
with a fine irony in this Arabic proverb : If I am 
master, and thou art a master, who shall drive 
the asses?'' — Richard Chenevix Trench, a.d. 
1 807-1 886. — Proverbs and their Lessons. 


I am an esquire, you are an esquire, who will harness the 

horses? (Osmanli). 
I am a queen, and you are a queen, so who is to fetch the 

water? (Hindustani). 
If I am master, and you are a master, who shall drive the 

asses? (Arabian). 
I stubborn and you stubborn, who is to carry the load? 

I the mistress, and you the young lady, who will sweep the 

house? (Spanish). 
The mother-in-law is great, the daughter-in-law is also 

great, the pot is burnt, who will take it off the fire? 

You a gentleman, and I a gentleman, who will milk the 

cow? (Turkish). 
You a lady, I a lady, who shall drive the hogs afield? 

You are a queen, I am queen, but who will husk the millet? 

(Kumaun, Garhwal). 
You stout, and I stout, who will carry the dirt out? (Eng- 


Every ass thinks himself worthy to stand with the king's 
horses. (English). 

You a Lady and I a Lady 313 

Gentry sent to market will not buy one bushel of com. 

If all get into the palanquin who will be the bearers? 

(Hindoo, Telugu, Gallican). 

If everyone becomes Lord, who shall turn our mill. (Ar- 

It is hard to be high and humble. (English). 

sow's EAR 

You cannot change nature. You cannot per- 
form an impossible task. 

The age and origin of the proverb is unknown. 

It is sometimes said : "You cannot make a horn 
of a pig's tail nor a silk purse of a hog's ear." 
The sow's ear is often referred to in old maxims. 
A few will be sufficient to indicate their character : 
"He has the right sow by the ear" (German). 
"To come sailing in the sow's ear" (English). 
"It is not every man who takes the right sow by 
the ear" (Danish). "To take the wrong sow by 
the ear" (English). 

Peter Prim's Pride, a child's book published in 
1810, contains an illustration of the proverb, 
"You cannot make a whistle out of a pig's tail." 
The illustration represents a maid and hair- 
dresser trying in vain to adorn a large and gross - 
looking woman, dressing her hair in a way that 
will give her the appearance of refinement. 

In the secluded districts of Kumaun and Garh- 
wal, India, the people are accustomed to say in 
referring to dullards who have failed to profit by 
educational advantages: "In order to make the 
tail of a dog straight it was put in a hollow bam- 

You Cannot Make a Silk Purse 315 

boo and kept there for twelve years, but when it 
was taken out of the bamboo it again became 
crooked." The same thought is expressed in the 
Bible: Eccles., i: 15; 7: 13; Jer., 13:23. 

There is an old East Indian story of the Mo- 
hammedan King Akbar, who in the spirit of fun, 
said to Birbal, the Brahman minister, "Birbal 
make me into a Brahman." On hearing the de- 
mand the minister asked for time that he might 
consider the matter and see what he could do to 
accomplish the king's conversion. 

A few days thereafter Birbal, hearing that Ak- 
bar was intending to take a drive, ascertained the 
direction in which he was to go, procured a don- 
key and led it to the roadside where the king 
would pass. There he waited till he saw him 
coming, when he began to vigorously curry the 
donkey as though he were engaged in a very 
important business. 

When the king saw the Brahman thus engaged 
he stopped and laughingly inquired why he was 
occupied in such a foolish business; whereupon 
Birbal explained that his labor was not foolish 
for he was turning a donkey into a horse. * * Turn- 
ing a donkey into a horse," repeated the king, 
"How can you do that?" 

" If that cannot be done, replied Birbal, " How 
do you expect to turn a Mohammedan into a 

**A crow was filled with envy on seeing the 

3i6 Proverbs Annotated 

beautiful white plumage of a swan, and thought 
it was due to the water in which the swan con- 
stantly bathed and swam, so he left the neighbor- 
hood of the altars, where he got his living by- 
picking up bits of the meat offered in sacrifice, 
and went and lived among the pools and streams, 
but though he bathed and washed his feathers 
many times a day, he didn't make them any 
whiter, and at last died of hunger into the 
bargain." — ^Esop, b.c. 561?, The Crow and the 
Swan, V. S. Vernon Jones' Translation. See also 
iEsop's fable of The Eagle, the Jackdaw and the 

"A bad man, though you treat him friendly, 
will perpetually be taking on again his old dis- 
position. He is like the tail of a dog, which 
though you bend it down with utmost care by 
emollients and unguents, will always return again 
to its old shape." — From the Panchatantra, 
predating the Christian era. 

"Each is bounded by his nature, 
And remains the same in stature, 
In the valley, on the mountain: 
Scoop from ocean or from fountain 
With a poor hand or a richer 
You can only fill your pitcher." 

Saadi, a.d. 1184-1291. 

" Nultow (Thou wilt not) never, late me (nor) skete (soon), 
A goshauk maken of a kete (kite), 
No faucon (falcon) make (en) of busard (buzzard), 
No hardy knight make of coward." 

From King Alisaunder, a.d. 1300. 

You Cannot Make a Silk Purse 317 

"You cannot make my lord, I fear, 
A velvet purse of a sow's ear." 
John Wolcot, a.d. 1738-18 19, Lord B. and His Motions, 

*' A sow's ear may somewhat resemble a purse, 
and a curled pig's tail may somewhat resemble a 
twisted horn ; but a sow's ear cannot be made into 
a silk purse, nor a pig's tail into a cow's horn." — 
E. CoBHAM Brewer, a.d. 1810-1897, Phrase and 

"All the education in the world will not change 
a strong original nature, or law of nature ; it may 
modify and improve; but the inherent — the raw 
material — will always remain the same. * What 
is bred in the bone will come out in the flesh.' " — 
Household Words, Feb. 28, 1852. 


A black rug cannot be made white by means of soap. 

A carrion kite will never make a good hawk. (English). 
A chicken will not be produced from an earthen egg. 

A hog in armor is still a hog. (English). 
A hog in a silk waistcoat is still a hog. (English). 
A pestle cannot be made into a bow. (Marathi). 
A pig's tail will never make a good arrow. (Spanish, 

Can you make a pipe of a pig's tail. (English). 
Chamois leather is not made of camel's hide. (Persian). 
Don't expect good faith from a low born man; reeds will 

never become sugar cane. 
This proverb is taken from the old Pashto poet — 
Abdul Hamid. (Pashto). 

3i8 Proverbs Annotated 

Every block will not make a bedstead. (English). 

Every man's no se will not make a shoeing horn. (English) . 

Every reed will not make a pipe. (English). 

How can a good sword be made from bad iron? (Persian). 

It is hard making a horn of an ape's tail. (English). 

It is hard making a good web of a bottle of hay. (English). 

It is ill making a blown horn of a tod's tail. (Scotch). 

Jack will never make a gentleman. (English). 

Of a pig's tail you can never make a good shaft. (English, 

String cannot be made from stone. (Marathi). 

Spears are not made of bulrushes. (English). 

The bust of Merciu^y cannot be cut from every wood. 

The world would not make a race horse out of a donkey. 

Though iron may be heated ever so much it will not be- 
come gold. (Tamil). 

You cannot make a good archbishop of a rogue. (Danish) . 

You cannot make a good coat of bad wool. (Spanish). 

You cannot make a good hunting horn of a pig's tail. 
(English, Danish). 

You cannot make a hawk of a buzzard. (French). 

You cannot make a horn of a pig's tail. (English). 

You cannot make a sieve of an ass's tail. (Greek, Ger- 

You cannot make a whistle out of a pig's tail. (English). 

You cannot make hawks of kites. (Gaelic). 

You cannot make velvet out of a sow's ear, (English). 


A dog's tail never became straight. (Persian). 
A donkey's tail is not a horse's tail. 

This proverb is used to indicate the same as "You 
cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." 
(Mauritius Creole), 

You Cannot Make a Silk Purse 319 

Asking wool of a goat and the making of a piece of cloth of 

a pucan. (Irish). 
A thing cannot be at the same time both true and false. 

A thousand men cannot tmdress a naked man. (Modem 

A toad propping a bedpost firmly. (Chinese). 
Can you change the shape of a dog*s tail? (Tamil). 
Can you obtain musk from a polecat? (Tamil). 
Heather bells do not bear cockle shells. (Scotch). 
I cannot rtm and sit at the same time. (English). 
I cannot sell the cow and have the milk. (Scotch). 
I cannot spin and weave at the same time. (English). 
Is it possible to cover a kittle drum with 'the skin of a 

mouse? (Behar). 
It is ill making a deadly enemy out of a gude friend. 

Ivory does not come from a rat's mouth. (Chinese). 
Nae man can baith sup an' blaw thegither. (Scotch) . 
Nae man can make his ain hap — ^i. e. Can arrange his own 

destiny. (Scotch). 
No man can call again yesterday. (English). 
No man can flay a stone. (English). 
No one can be caught in places he does not visit. (Danish). 
No one can blow and swallow at the same time. (German). 
No one is bound to do impossibilities. (French, Italian). 
One actor cannot perform a play. (Chinese). 
One cannot be and have been. (French). 
One cannot be both old and young at the same time. 

One cannot be in two places at once. (English). 
One cannot drink and whistle at the same time. (Italian) . 
One cannot ring the bells and walk in the procession. 

One cannot wash a blackamoor white. (German). 
One can't shoe a running horse. (Dutch). 

320 Proverbs Annotated 

One foot cannot stand on two boats. (Chinese). 
Pounding an ass to make him a horse. (Bengalese). 
Should even the water of life fall from the clouds you 

would never get fruit from the willow. (Persian). 
That which has been eaten out of the pot cannot be put in 

the dish. (Danish). 
The eyebrow of the new moon will not become green with 

the dye of the sky. (Persian). 
The water of the river does not motmt up to the ridge pole. 

The water that comes from the same spring cannot be 

both pure and salt. (English). 
The wonderful and the impossible have collided. (Kaffir). 
To believe a business is impossible is the way to make it so. 

You cannot clap with one hand. (Chinese). 
You cannot coax de mornin* glory to climb de wrong way 

roim' the cornstalk. (Negro — Plantation Proverb). 
You cannot damage a wrecked ship. (Italian). 
You cannot draw blood from a turnip. (Italian). 
You cannot draw wine out of an empty cask. (German). 
You cannot drive a windmill with a pair of bellows. (Eng- 

You cannot get blood from a stone. (English). 
You cannot get oil out of a wall. (French). 
You cannot pull hard with a broken rope. (Danish). 
You cannot shade off the sim with one hand. (Chinese). 
You cannot shear the sheep closer than the skin. (Dan- 
You cannot strip two skins off one cow. (Chinese). 
You cannot take a cow from a man that has none. 

You cannot eat your cake and have it too. (English). 
Wash a dog, comb a dog, still a dog is but a dog. (French). 


By labor fire is got out of a stone. (German, Dutch). 

You Cannot Make a Silk Purse 321 

It is always the impossible that happens. (French). 

Labor conquers all things. (Latin). 

Labor makes bread out of stone. (German). 

Madam, if it is possible, it is done; if it is not possible it 
shall be done. (French). 

Nothing is so difficult but we may overcome it by persever- 
ance. (Scotch). 

Nothing is difficult to a willing mind. (Italian, English, 

Nothing is impossible to pains and patience. (English). 

Persevere and never fail. (English). 

The gods sell everything for labor. (English). 

The will does it. (German). 

To a brave heart nothing is impossible. (French). 

To him that wills ways are not wanting. (English). 

Where there is a will there is a way. (English, Spanish, 


Adams, W. Davenport, a.d. i 829-1 891, 15 

^sop, (died about B.C. 561), 5, 18, 37, 48, 57, 80, 90, 91, 

143, 146, 155, 167, 183, 188, 190, 199, 217, 223, 234, 260, 

Agricola, Cnaus Julius, a.d. 37-93, 26, 
Ambrose, Saint, 340?-397, 294 
Ammianus, Marcellinus, a.d. 330?-397, 222 
Anglicus, Bartholomew, a.d. 1263?, 231 
Antoninus\ See Marcus Aurelius. 
Aristophanes, B.C. 444?-38o?, 282 
Aristotle, B.C. 384-322, 5, 26 
Arnold, Thomas, a.d. i 795-1 842, 90 
Arnot, William, a.d. i 808-1 875, 144, 172 
Augustine, Saint, a.d. 354-430, 294, 304 
Bailey, Nathan, A.D.-1742, 36, 40, 108, 132, 156, 177, 218, 

225, 271, 292 
Barber, John W., a.d. 1798-1885, 224, 226 
Barnfield, Richard, a.d. 15 74- 162 7, 69 
Bayly, J. A. Sparvel, a.d. 1896, 272 
Beaumont and Fletcher, a.d. 1584-1616, 81 
Bland, Robert, a.d. 1814, 236 
Boswell, James, a.d. i 740-1 795, 95 
Boyd, Louise V., a.d. 1873, 82, no, 220 
Braithwaite, Richard, a.d. 1588-1673, 117 
Brand, John, a.d. i 744-1806, 306 
Brewer, E. Cobham, a.d. 1810-1897, 56, 250, 304, 317 
Bruyhre, See La Bruyhe 
Bunyan, John, a.d. i 628-1 688, 39 
Burke, Edmund, a.d. i 729-1 797, 57, 201 


324 Authors Quoted 

Burns, Robert, a.d. i 759-1 796, 268 

Burrell, David J., a.d. 1844-, 133 

Burton, Robert, a.d. 1576-1640, 130, 298 

Butler, Samuel, a.d. 161 2-1 680, 94, 139, 191 

Cervantes, Saavedra Miguel de, a.d. 1547-1616, 38, 91, 148, 

161, 169, 191, 200, 208, 224, 261 
Chamberlain, Alexander Francis, a.d. 1866-, 103 
Chaucer, Geoffery, a.d. I340?-I400, 25, 80, 123, 183, 211, 

276, 277 
Chesterfield, Philip Dormer Stanhope, a.d. i 694-1 773, 6 
Chester, R., 232 

Churchill, Charles, a.d. i 731-1764, 292 
Cicero. See Marcus Tullius Cicero 
Claudian. See Claudius Claudianus 
Claudius Claudianus, a.d. 365?-4o8?, 241 
Cohen, A., a.d, 191 i, 33 
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, a.d. i 772-1 834, 32 
Colton, Charles C, a.d. i 780^1 832, 171, 202, 305 
Cowan, Frank, a.d. 1844-1906, 106, no 
Cowper, William, a.d. i 731-1800, 201 
Cunningham, John W., a.d. 1780-1861, 81, 191, 297 
Curtius Rufus, (Circa a.d. 44-45), 250 
DeKay, Charles, a.d. 1848-, 154 
Dickens, Charles, a.d. 1812-1870, 109, 172, 219, 275 
Disraeli, Isaac, a.d. i 766-1 848, 3, 283 
Donne, John, a.d. i 573-1 631, 143 
Dryden, John, a.d. 1631-1700, 123 
Dykes, Oswald, a.d. 1707, 40, 50, 131, 149, 184, 212, 218, 

Dyer, T. Thiselton, a.d. 1906, 126 
Edwards, Eliezer, a.d. 1917, 137 
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, a.d. i 803-1882, 144, 209 
Ennius. See Quintus Ennius 
Euripides, B.C. 480-406, 90 
Fletcher, John, a.d. i 576-1625, 170 
Fortescue, John, a.d. i 395-1485, 161 
Franklin, Benjamin, a.d. i 706-1 790, 8 

Authors Quoted 325 

Fuller, ThomaSy A.D. 1608-1701, 26, 59, 113 

Gay, John, a.d. 1688-1732, 18, 91, 123, 261 

Godet, Frederick, a.d. 1812-1900, 236 

Gurnall, William, a.d. 1616-1679, 144 

Halliwell, J. O., A.D. 1 820-1 889, 36, 270 

Hearn, Lafcadio, a.d. i 850-1904, 47 

Henry, Matthew, a.d. 1662-17 14, I7if 252 

Herbert, George, a.d. i 593-1633, 13 

Herrick, Robert, a.d. 1591-1674, 50, 251 

Hesiod, B.C. 735?, 6 

Heywood, John, a.d. 1497-1580, 38, 49, 94, lOO, 107, 139, 

156, 184, 190, 195, 211, 212, 217 
Hislop, Alexander, a.d. 1862, 119 
Hogg, James, a.d. i 770-1 835, 278 
Howell, James, a.d. i 594-1666, 26 
Holland, J. G., a.d. 1819-1881, 26 
Homer, B.C. 850?, 6 
Hulme, F. Edward, a.d. 1841-1909, 35, 40, 95, 162, 196, 


Irving, Washington, a.d. 1783-1859, 108, 116, 171, 243 

Jacox, Francis, a.d. 1874, 253, 306 

Jameson, Anna Brownell, a.d. 1794-1860, 108 

Jermin, Michael, a.d. -1659, 204 

Jesus the son of Sirach, B.C. 200?, 130 

Jewel, John, a.d. i 522-1 571, 7 

Kelly, Walter K., a.d. 1870, 270 

Knox, John, a.d. i 505-1 572, 7 

La Bruylre, Jean de, a.d. 1645- 1696, 91 

Lanfranc, a.d. ioo5?-io89, 287 

Lange, John Peter, a.d. i 802-1884, 141 

Langland, William, a.d. i 330-1400, 58. 68, 106, 278 

Latimer, Hugh, a.d. i 485-1 555, 7 

Lavater, Johann €., a.d. 1741-1801, 305 

Livingston, David, a.d. 181 3- 1873, 47 

Longfellow, Henry W., a.d. 1807-1882, 216 

Lowell, James Russell, a.d. 1819-1891, 144 

Lucian, a.d. 39-65, 222 

326 Authors Quoted 

Lucius, AnncBus Seneca, B.C. 4-A.D. 65, 183, 291, 304 

Marcus Aurelius, a.d. I2I?-i8o, 169 

Marcus Fabius Quintilianus, a.d. 35?-ioo?, 168 

Marcus Tullius Cicero, B.C. 106-43, ^9» 68 

Menander, B.C. 342-291, 4 

Mathews, William, a.d. 1818-1909, 41 

Meyer, Heinrich A.W., a.d. 1800-1873, 21 

Mirabeau, G. Honore R., a.d. 1749-1791, 167 

Montaigne, Michael de, a.d. i 533-1 592, 200 

Motley, John Lothrop, a.d. 181 4-1 877, 8 

Mailer, Frederick Max, a.d. i 823-1900, 32 

Negris, Alexander, a.d. i 831, 211 

Ovid. See Publius Ovidus Naso 

Owen, John, a.d. 161 6-1 683, 292 

Palmer, Samuel, a.d. 1710, 170, 195, 205, 305 

Parker, Martyn, A.D.-1600, 191 

Paul, the Apostle, A.D.-67?, 5, 290 

Periander, B.C. 625-585, 5 

Peacock, Thomas Love, a.d. i 785-1 866, 118 

Pindar, B.C. 522?-443, 5 

Pindar, Peter. See John Wolcott 

Plato, B.C. 428?-347, 5 

Plautus. See Titus Maccius Plautus. 

Plutarch, a.d. 46?-i20?, 4, 68, 251 

Prior, Matthew, a.d. i 664-1 721, 14 

Procter, Adelaide A., a.d. i 825-1 864, 261 

Publius Syrus, (Circa B.C. 43), 183, 242, 290 

Publius Ovidus Naso, B.C. 43-a.d. 17, 49, 68, 123, 183 

Publius Vergilius, B.C. 70-19, 123 

Pythagoras, B.C. 582?-500?, 55 

Quintilian. See Marcus Fabius Quintilianus 

Quimtus Curtius. See Curtius Rufus 

Quintus Ennius, B.C. 239-169, 68 

Rabelais, Frangois, a.d. 1490?-! 553. 288 

Ramsay, Allan, a.d. 1713-1784, 31 

Ramsay, Dean Edward B. B., a.d. 1793-1872, 109, 140 

Raleigh, Sir Walter, a.d. 1552-1618, 169 

Authors Quoted 327 

Riguetti, Gabriel Honore. See Mirabeau 

Rossetti, Christina C, a.d. i 830-1894, 220 

Ruskin, John, a.d. 1819-1900, 10 

Saadi, Shaikh Muslihu-d Din, a.d. 1184-1291, 316 

Scott, Sir Walter, a.d. i 771-1832, 95, 178, 297 

Seeker, William, a.d. 1660, 81 

Seneca. See Lucius AnncEus 

Servius Sulpicius, B.C. 105-43, 236 

Shakespeare, William, a.d. i 564-1616, 50, 58, 59, 81, 103, 

143. I55» 178, 200, 201, 217, 224, 242, 251, 268, 273, 278, 

291, 300 
Skeat, Walter W., a.d. 1835-, 287 
Skeleton, John, Circa, a.d. 1460-1529, 139 
Smith, David, a.d. 1866-, 283 
Southey, Robert, a.d. i 774-1 843, 202 
South, Robert, a.d. 1633-1716, 292 
Sparvel-Bayly, J. A., See Bayly 
Spenser, Edmund, a.d. i 553-1599, 102, 139 
Spurgeon, Charles H., a.d. 1834-1892, 41, 179, 212 
Stapleton, Alfred, a.d. 1900, 37 
Sterling-Maxwe'.l, William, a.d. 1818-1878, 7 
Stuart, Moses, a.d. i 780-1 852, 9 
Stuckley, Lewis, a.d. -1687, 131 
Syrus. See Publius Syrus 
Taylor, Jefferys, a.d. 1827, 51, 132, 225, 226 
Taylor, Jeremy, a.d. 161 3-1 667, 7, 69 
Theogms, B.C. 540?, 4 
Theophrastus, B.C. 372?-287?, 5 
Thurburn, Septimus Smet, a.d. 1844-, 296 
Tiruvallurar, (Between a.d. 800-1000,) 203 
Titus Maccius Plautus, B.C. 254?-! 84, 67, 68, 277, 290 
Toy, Crawford H., a.d. 1836-, 10 
Trapp, John, a.d. i 600-1 669, 252 

Trench, Richard, Chenevix, a.d. 1807-1886, 51, 196, 312 
Tusser, Thomas, a.d. 1524-1580, 69, 107, 178, 190, 212 
Tweezer, John, a.d. 1594, 106 
Tyndakf William, a.d. 1484?-! 536, 20 

328 Authors Quoted 

Upreti, Pandit Ganga Datt, a.d. 1894, 294 
Vergil. See Puhlius Vergilius 
Whateley, Richard, a.d. i 787-1 863, 167 
Wolcott, John, A.D. 1 738-1 8 1 9, 317 
Wycliffe, John, A.D.-1384, 210 


Old Testament 

Genesis, 19:17, 26 
Genesis, 33:8, 9, 283 
Exodus, 36:5-7, 283 
Deuteronomy, 31:20,32- 
^ 15, 242 
Judges, 8:21, 13 
I Samuel, 10:12, 13 
I Samuel, 19:24, 13 
I Samuel, 24:13, 14, 57 

1 Samuel, 25:2,5, 160 

2 Samuel, 20:18, 13 
Nehemiah, 9:25, 26, 242 
Job, 2:4, 13 

Job, 13:5, 250, 252 
Job, 14:19, 12 
Job, 34:29, 12 
Psalm, 106:35-40, 13 
Proverbs, 3:13-18, 102 
Proverbs, 8:1-21, 1 02 
Proverbs, ii:i, 168 
Proverbs, 17:16, 102 
Proverbs, 17:28, 251, 252 
Proverbs, 20:23, 168 
Proverbs, 21 :23, 203 
Proverbs, 26:4, 31 
Proverbs, 26:1-8, 242 
Proverbs, 26:5, 31 
Proverbs, 29:11, 204 
Ecclesiastes, 1:15, 315 
Ecclesiastes, 7:13, 315 
Ecclesiastes, 9:4, 13 
Ecclesiastes, 10:1, 14-21 
Isaiah, 20:11, 14 
Isaiah, 24:2, 57 
Isaiah, 28:20, 258 
Isaiah, 59:10, 272 
Jeremiah, 13:23, 12, 315 
Ezekiel, 16:44, 13, 57 
Ezekiel, 18:2, 57 
Hosea, 12:7, 8, 170 
Malachi, 1:8, 12 

New Testament 

Matthew, 5:18, 17 
Matthew, 6:34, 20 
Matthew, 7:2, 17 
Matthew, 7:3-5, 236 
Matthew, 7:3-17, 261 
Matthew, 7:7, 14 
Matthew, 7:9, 10, 18 
Matthew, 11:17, 18 
Matthew, 13:12,283 
Matthew, 13:57, 16 
Matthew, 15:14, 18 
Matthew, 19:24, 19 
Matthew, 23:4, 19 
Matthew, 23 :24, 19 
Matthew, 24:28, 12 
Matthew, 25 :24, 20 
Matthew, 25:29, 283 
Mark, 4:25, 283 
Luke, 4:23, 16, 236 
Luke, 6:38, 283 
Luke, 8:18, 283 
Luke, 9:62, 17 
Luke, 12:16-21, 268 
Luke, 14:15,20 
Luke, 14:28-32, 190 
Luke, 17:37, 12 
Luke, 19:26,283 
John, 1:46, 16 
John, 4:35, 16 
John, 4:37, 19 
John, 8 :44, 64 
The Acts, 17:5, 130 
Romans, 2:21-23, 143 
Romans, 5=3-5. 390 
Romans, 12:19, 21 

I Corinthians, 15:33, 21, 

II Corinthians, 12:7-10, 

Galatians, 5:9, 21 
Galatians, 6:7, 21 
I Timothy, 5:13, 121 
James, 3:5, 121 
I Peter, 4:8, 21 
IlPeter, 2:22, 21 


Curiosities in Proverbs 


Dwight Edwards Marvin 

More than 2000 folk sayings trans- 
lated from more than seventy languages 
and dialects. The volume is not a 
mere compilation, but also a study of 
proverb lore which shows the real sig- 
nificance of the sayings of the people, 
and the reason for their repetition from 
one generation to another. There is an 
alphabetical and topical index whereby 
the location of any particular proverb 
may be readily ascertained. 

G. P. Putnam's Sons 

New York London